In January 2010, "Power System R&D Laboratories" which is responsible for research and development in response to spread of use of renewable energy and technological innovation in the field of electricity infrastructure was established in WinD Lab because we expect renewable energy will grow rapidly in the future.
Itoh, the General Manager talks about the research activities of challenging to develop new businesses and new markets, with energy and environment technology as cores, including "Smart Grid" that is a system to supply clean energy efficiently.
Doctor of Science
General Manager of the Power System R&D Laboratories and
General Manager of the Next-generation Superconductivity Development Office
Itoh, General Manager who took up the post on 1st April, 2010. He had been the Director of Research and Innovation Promotion Office in National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), an independent administrative institution that has concluded a comprehensive cooperation agreement with Sumitomo Electric, just before he took up his new post. He says that he doesn't feel a huge gap between the current Power System R&D Laboratories (PS Labs) and AIST. "AIST places importance on delivering the results of research to society in the form of products, provided AIST works together with companies. It is an idea that research yields results only after it creates a business. The PS Labs has the same idea. Research is very close to businesses. Researchers have to propose business models so that the results lead to new businesses. I think that seamless activities from basic research toward business lead to dynamic innovation. Innovation is changes to grow. So what is innovation for the PS Labs? I think it is that we, researchers, develop new products which are accepted by society, new business of Sumitomo Electric grow on a large scale, and we contribute to continuous development of our company."
Conclusion of Cooperation Agreement with AIST
One of major activities in the PS Labs is "Smart Grid＊." "Smart Grid" is a system to supply more clean energy more efficiently and reliably. "I consider that the research can be an answer to three large problems of resources, energy, and environment that the earth is facing," says Itoh, the General Manager. "There are three pillars in the research mission of the PS Labs. The first is the power conditioning system. The key of 'Smart Grid' is renewable energy, such as sunlight and wind power. Regarding the energy which depends on nature, it is necessary to condition the generated electric power to the electric power which can be used practically. The system for conditioning is the power conditioning system. PS Labs have developed technologies and products associated with the system. The second is a storage battery. Even if energy is converted into electric power which can be used, the energy is useless if there is no technology that allows to use energy when needed, and stores energy when not needed. The third is technologies and products related to energy distribution.
Thin film superconducting wires
Electric wires, which distribute energy, themselves are required to be more highly efficient with less resistance. The research of superconducting wires is an example. On all of above-mentioned items, we have carried out various experiments to put them into practical use," says Itoh, the General Manager. "In other words, what we are aiming is to secure various energy sources using blessings of nature that the planet Earth has, to reduce CO2
emissions, and to be among the first to develop a system to supply the most environment-friendly energy."
"One of important themes that the PS Labs work on is cost reduction. We try to achieve cost reduction by design engineering. For example, assume that the power conditioner is consisted of three large components. If the whole of one of the components can be removed, the cost is cut down significantly. We aim at such design development. To reduce costs in engineering, drastic ways are required. We are laboratories that compete on systems. We will fall behind in the market if we develop parts from nothing in a quite new field. We will purchase excellent parts from anywhere, and win with final products. That is the way of thinking about open innovation that is the operating policy of the PS Labs. We will devote to offer good products to society at the earliest possible time by utilizing excellent technologies and human resources of Group companies or collages as much as possible to speed up research and development. For example, superconductivity research. For research of next-generation superconducting wires, cooperative research among AIST, the University of Tokyo, Kyushu University, and the PS Labs started in October 2009. We can say it is an example of open innovation where industry, academia and government are in one united body."
As the Sumitomo Spirit includes "Attaching Importance to Technology," research and development have been a driving force in the evolution of Sumitomo business for Sumitomo Electric. "I feel very much the corporate culture where technologies grow the company," says Itoh, the General Manager. "Sumitomo Electric is a favorable environment for researchers. Researchers are expected a lot. We need to response to the expectations. I think a company needs a department that shows the strategic potential power of the company. I want to bring about innovation from the PS Labs by combining research with businesses so that Sumitomo Electric can be a leading company that contributes to society on a global scale."
Device & System Division
Power System R&D Laboratories
I am in charge of research and development of "Multifunctional Inverter" that is a kind of power conditioners. The inverter is essential to facilities for photovoltaic power generation, and it is said that the supply cannot meet demand in the world now. The Japanese government set up a policy to install solar batteries of 28 million kW on a nationwide scale by 2020. In addition, construction projects of large-scale photovoltaic power generation facilities have progressed in overseas countries. The increase of the needs is expected in the future. Our goal is an unprecedented multifunction inverter which has information communication functions and voltage adjustment functions with our original technologies, and is long-lived and in smaller size by new materials. Electric power infrastructure is used over a long span of 20 to 30 years and becomes social infrastructure unlike information devices etc. Since failure after delivery is never allowed, careful verification of durability and reliability is still required before commercialization of the product. I want to contribute to efficient distribution of energy with less load to the environment at the earliest possible time. With the aim, I will continue to make efforts with a sense of speed."
"Multifunctional Inverter" (Prototype)
A device that converts the generated direct current into alternating current.
Voltage adjustment functions and communication functions are equipped to solve issues of energy,
such as fluctuation of electric power generation which depends on nature.