Energy and Environment Laboratories

Professor Ohno

Distribution board for circuit breaking experiments

When short circuits or grounding occur as a result of lightning or typhoons, they can cause the flow of huge electrical surges of tens of thousands of amperes, which can in turn burn out power equipment such as generators and transformers. An electrical circuit breaker is a switch that immediately stops these huge short circuit- or grounding-related electrical surges. It is an indispensable piece of equipment in the safe and stable provision of electricity. In this laboratory, participants strive to create higher-performance circuit breakers by, for example, conducting breaker experiments such as testing electrical density using microwaves, by conducting research related to circuit breaking performance of low-environmental-impact gases, and by conducting research into the electrode wear of circuit breakers.

Professor Shimizu, Professor Muramoto

Creeping discharge

This laboratory conducts research into material engineering aimed at achieving environmentally friendly generation, storage, transport, and conversion of electric energy. One area of research involves insulating materials that block the flow of electric current. Higher voltage is used to minimize the loss of electric energy along the power transmission system. This voltage reaches hundreds of thousands of volts, and if the electrical insulating material deteriorates, electric breakdown could occur that could burn out equipment. This laboratory conducts research on electroluminescence, which is closely related to material deterioration, as well as works to develop new electrical insulating materials such as vegetable oil and ice that are gentle on the environment.
Another area of research involves electric double-layer capacitors for storing electric energy. While batteries store electric energy by using a chemical reaction, capacitors store electricity ‘as is.’ These huge-capacity devices are called super capacitors, and this laboratory is carrying out research to improve the performance of these super capacitors.

Professor Yamanaka

The laboratory’s solar power generation system

The rapid spread of solar power use has brought with it a number of issues. One of these is the difficulty of assessing and diagnosing solar power generation systems during their operation. Because the majority of solar panels are installed on rooftops, it is hard to tell when they get broken or dirty. Furthermore, because the power generated fluctuates depending on the season and weather, simply monitoring the amount of power generated is not enough to determine if there is a problem with the solar panels. This laboratory conducts research into ways to assess and diagnose solar power generation systems. Accomplishments so far include the development of methods for using the I-V curve (current-voltage curve) of a solar cell, and software for simulating power generation.

Associate Professor Iioka

Next-generation power system modeling device

Although using renewable energy such as solar power and wind power helps prevent exhaustion of the Earth’s finite resources, it can make operation of the power grid extremely complex. In this laboratory, participants assume a future of widespread renewable energy use as they develop technologies that avoid grid breakdown problems caused by things like lightning, as well as technologies that minimize the effects on the voltage and frequency of the electricity provided to each household on the grid. The goal is to ensure sustainable and smooth operation of the power system.