Phase Interface Science for Highly Efficient Energy Utilization

Strategic Objective

To realize breakthroughs in phase-interface phenomena and create basic technologies for high-functionality interface that will result in dramatic advancements in highly-efficient energy utilization(2011)

Research Supervisor

Katsunori Hanamura (Professor, School of Engineering, Tokyo Institute of Technology)


The primary goal of this research area is to greatly advance fundamental science and technology, which include exploration of phase-interfacial energy conversion/transport phenomena and creation of high-performance phase interfaces, in order to achieve ever more efficient energy utilization and thus to realize an enriched sustainable society.
Specifically, we take up the challenge of creating phase interfaces with significantly reduced energy losses and/or those for highly efficient energy use by deepening fundamental theory and control/optimization methodology of phase interface phenomena. To accomplish these goals, it is indispensible to establish analytical and design techniques integrating nano-, meso- and macro-scales, as well as theoretical methods for the control and optimization of phase interface structures. Furthermore, it is important that the results of such cutting edge fundamental research should be transferred and effectively applied to the design of real equipment and systems, leading to dramatically improved performance, reduced carbon emissions and lower costs.
The ultimate goal of this research area, therefore, is to elucidate energy conversion and transport mechanisms at phase interfaces in order to enable highly efficient energy use; to develop measurement, modeling and simulation methods for integrative analysis and design of phase interface phenomena at multiple scales; to establish mathematical methods for the control and optimization of phase interface structures; and to realize highly functional phase interfaces that allow for theoretically possible maximal performance in actual devices and equipment. To meet these goals, we encourage integrated challenges that go beyond the bounds of existing scientific disciplines and combine the knowledge gained in different fields.

Assistant Supervisor

Kazuhito Hashimoto (Professor, School of Engineering, The University of Tokyo)

Research Area Advisors

・Koichi Eguchi
Professor, Kyoto University

・Ken Okazaki
Professor, Tokyo Institute of Technology

・Chisachi Kato
Center Director, The University of Tokyo

・Kazue Kurihara
Professor, Tohoku University

・Michiyuki Saikawa
Deputy Associate Vice President, Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry

・Yoshihiro Nakato
Professor, Osaka University

・Tsuyoshi Hagiwara
Senior Manager, TOSHIBA Corporation

・Kenjiro Miyano
Fellow, National Institute for Materials Science

・Makoto Yoshida
Deputy General Manager, KYOCERA Corporation

・Masahiro Watanabe
Center Director, University of Yamanashi

Year Started : 2013

Creation of Nanointerface Controlled by Tribochemical Reaction for Mechanical Systems with Super-low Friction

Research Director:

Koshi Adachi (Professor, Tohoku University)


We aim for dramatic reduction in friction which accounts for a significant portion of energy losses in mechanical systems.
Theoretical design of low friction system has been recognized as too difficult because friction is complex phenomenon that is affected by numerous factors such as material properties and experimental conditions. In this project, we focus on "nanointerface" which is self-formed by friction-induced chemical reaction so called "tribo-chemical reaction", and we clarify and control it from the viewpoints of material science, chemistry, physics as well as mechanical engineering. Based on such scientific and engineering understanding, we pursue creation of “nanointerface” which realizes super-low friction.

Achievement of ultra-low reflectivity by interface control method and ultra-high conversion efficiency of crystalline Si solar cells

Research Director:

Hikaru Kobayashi(Professor, Osaka University)


Ultra-low reflectivity of Si surfaces, resulting from the formation of a nanocrystalline Si layer, can be achieved simply by contact of platinum catalysts with Si wafers immersed in H2O2+HF solutions. Using this method in fabrication of crystalline Si solar cells, high photocurrent density can be obtained. Due to low defect densities in the Si nanocrystalline layer, high photovoltage can be realized with the surface passivation method. Consequently, this interface control method can achieve ultra-high conversion efficiency under low costs.

Interface Electromagnetic Field Controlling and Thermal Energy Utilization by Ceramics Heterolayers

Research Director:

Tadaaki Nagao(Group reader, National Institue for Materials Science)


In this project, we will establish the guiding principles and the strategy for developing materials for realizing high-efficiency heat absorption, heat emitting devices and other types of energy converters based on low-dimensional electromagnetic response at the heterointerfaces of ceramics and glass films. The materials developments will be thrust from the stand point of element strategy and combined with the nano fabrication techniques as well as electromagnetic controlling techniques for establishing new materials engineering to contribute for low-carbon society.

Breakthough on multi-scale interfacial transport phenomena in oceanic methane hydrate reservior and application to large-scale methane production

Research Director:

Shigenao Maruyama(Professor, Tohoku University)


To contribute the enhancement of large-scale methane production, we aim to clarify the mechanism of producing the methane gas from the oceanic methane hydrate (MH) reservoir. In this study, the micro-scale interfacial phenomena among solid, liquid, gas phase in MH reservoir will be observed and evaluated. Additionally, it will be connected to the macro-scale transport phenomena and the modeling of chemical reaction. Furthermore, it will be applied to the production of the methane gas from high pressure MH reservoir in mega-scale. It will contribute the green innovation as a new field in the interfacial technology.

Year Started : 2012

Studies on ion transport in porous electrode for high rate performance batteries

Research Director:

Takeshi Abe (Professor, Kyoto University)


For fast charge-discharge reactions in the rechargeable batteries, rapid transport of ions and electrons in the electrode is essential. In this study, we will conduct fundamental studies on the ion transport properties in the porous electrodes consisting of active material, conductive additive, and polymer binder. Based on this result, we will show the guideline of the porous electrode with fast ion transport for the high rate performance batteries.

Simultaneous preparation of bulk-heterojunction interface from soluble inorgenic precursors and application to hybrid solar cells

Research Director:

Shuzi Hayase (Professor, Kyushu Institute of Technology)


This project is on fabrication of low cost and high efficiency solar cells. Conventional bulk-heterojunction solar cells with organic and inorganic hybrid structures have potential as high efficiency solar cells. However, some weak points such as long preparation processes and less charge collection abilities have been reported. Our study is aiming at solving these points. The bulk-heterojunction interface with the hybrid structure is prepared all at once from soluble inorganic precursors. We propose new materials, processes, and device structures to realize the structure. Researchers in the fields of molecular design, syntheses, time resolved spectroscopy, cell structure, and processes join this project to design high performance photo-conversion interfaces.

Development of triple-phase-boundary using innovative anion conductive polymers and its applications to alkaline fuel cells

Research Director:

Kenji Miyatake (Professor, University of Yamanashi)


For high performance and durable alkaline fuel cells, the following research subjects are conducted: 1) stable anion conductive polymers, 2) high performance non-precious metal electrocatalysts, and 3) triple-phase-boundary with controlled reaction field. Conjugated anion conductive polymers and non-precious metal electrocatalysts (prepared by nanocapsule method) are combined to form electrocatalyst layers, of which structure is optimized to achieve efficient fuel oxidation and oxygen reduction reactions. The optimized electrocatalyst layers and the anion conductive membranes are used for improving the performance and durability of alkaline fuel cells.

Theoretical design of photo-induced phase-interface elementary processes based on computational energy conversion science

Research Director:

Koichi Yamashita (Professor, The University of Tokyo)


The technology which holds the key to expanding the use of solar energy is viewed from the perspective of "phase-interface photoinduced elementary processes” and we study the control and optimization of the elementary processes required by each technology based on theoretical and computational chemistry. Organic solar cells and photocatalytic reactions are taken up as energy conversion technology. Phase-interfaces are built by basic materials, such as organic polymers, transition metal oxides, III-V compound semiconductors, carbon nanotubes, and graphenes etc., and we promote the computational energy conversion science for controlling and optimizing complex factors, such as phase-interface structure, impurities doping, and structural defects.

Year Started : 2011

Interface-region engineering of high-temperature electrodes based on in-situ measurements under real operation conditions

Research Director:

Tatsuya Kawada (Professor, Tohoku University)


Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) is a flexible and expedient energy conversion system for achieving stable energy supply with low carbon emission. A key technology towards commercialization is the optimization of the electrodes, which, however, is not an easy task because of the complicated processes taking place around the interfaces. The goal of this study is to develop measurement and analysis methods for understanding nano-, micro-, and macro-scale behaviors of the interface region under real operation conditions, and to establish an engineering approach to design the optimum interface for high temperature electrodes.

Multi-Scale and Multi-Physics Approach for Designing Materials and Microstructure of Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Electrodes

Research Director:

Michihisa Koyama (Professor, Kyushu University)


Reduction of irreversible losses associated with reaction and mass transport is important for higher efficiency of the solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC). This project aims at improving SOFC efficiency by designing better materials and microstructure of electrodes. Toward this goal, intensive collaborations of experimental and simulation approaches will be performed. Drastic performance improvement of SOFC electrodes is challenged from both materials and microstructural aspects by integrating chemistry, mechanical engineering, materials engineering, etc.

Interfacial Meta-Fluidics

Research Director:

Yasuyuki Takata (Professor, Kyushu University)


Heat and mass transfer at solid-gas-liquid interface, such as evaporation, condensation and adsorption, strongly influences the performance of various energy systems. The present study proposes a new scientific discipline "Meta-Fluidics" pursuing transcendence of conventional performance of the systems by making use of nanostructures of interface. Optimum design of complex nanostructure with the aid of knowledge from the meta-fluidics will be capable of creating innovative high-efficiency heat/mass transfer surfaces, which goes beyond the conventional macroscale measure of interface characteristics.

Nanocycle at Nano-in-Macro Interface

Research Director:

Kunio Takayangi (Professor, Tokyo Institute of Technology)


Contacts of nano and macro structures, "nano-in-macro", can form specific phases which should govern cyclic transport of ions and electrons moving into and out from the contact phase, "nanocycle". The nanocycle at nano-in-macro is the key issue to be unveiled in order to make devices of a higher efficiency, i.e., lithium ion batteries and catalysts. Nano-in-macro structures and nanocycles are studied by the 50pm electron microscopy of the world best resolution.

Interface science inspired nanoporous composites for next-generation

energy devices

Research Director:

CHEN Mingwei (Professor, Tohoku University)


In this study we will develop innovative nanoporous metals and composites for next-generation energy storage/conversion devices that possess both high power density and high energy density, superior to current energy devices, for a wide range of practical applications. The advanced functions of these devices will be achieved by optimizing and manipulating the surfaces and interfaces inside the porous nano architecture on the basis of experimental and theoretical investigations of the unique surface/interface phenomena in the nanoporous materials. By utilizing high-resolution electron microscopy, in-situ Raman spectroscopy and ab-initio simulation, we will pursuit new discoveries in surface/interface science for the improved performances of the energy devices.

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