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Toyota exhibits greening technology

8 October 2011 No Comment

Toyota Motor Corp this week held an event at its Toyota Biotechnology and Afforestation Laboratory in Aichi Prefecture to showcase technologies developed there as part of its biotechnology and afforestation businesses. Technology on display included a newly developed yeast that increases the production yield of cellulosic ethanol bio-fuel, new technologies for the greening of parking lots and walls, and a new “cool-spot creation technology” for simulating and analyzing the effects of greening.

Development status of bio-fuels (cellulosic ethanol)

Toyota, through the use of gene recombination technology, has recently developed a new strain of yeast that will play an important role in the fermentation process for producing cellulosic ethanol.

Fermentation of xylose, one of the sugars produced when plant fibers are broken down in the enzymatic saccharification process, is normally difficult to achieve with naturally occurring yeasts. However, Toyota’s newly developed yeast is not only highly efficient at fermenting xylose but also highly resistant to such fermentation-inhibiting substances as acetic acid. As a result, the yeast has achieved one of the highest ethanol fermentation density levels in the world (approximately 47 g/liter), and is expected to improve bio-fuel yield and significantly reduce production costs.

Toyota, with the goal of reducing CO2 emissions and responding to the growing need for diverse sources of energy, is working on developing renewable energy sources such as bio-fuels in addition to its work in developing next-generation environment-friendly vehicles. The company is focusing on cellulosic ethanol, which is produced from non-edible plants that have significantly less impact on world food supplies. Research is underway on developing comprehensive technologies for the various processes involved in producing cellulosic ethanol, including raw material pretreatment, enzymatic saccharification and yeast fermentation.

Aiming to achieve production-cost parity with other liquid fuels such as gasoline, Toyota is striving to achieve a stable supply of raw-material plant fibers as well as technologies that reduce production costs.

New technology for urban greening and greening-effect simulation

To aid in reducing the effects of urban heat-island phenomenon, Toyota has been working on urban greening products, of both the rooftop and indoor variety. Two newly developed urban greening products – “Smart Green Parking”, for the greening of parking areas, and a new wire-based “Smart Green Wall” – will be sold through Toyota Roof Garden Corporation, starting today.

The Toyota Biotechnology and Afforestation Laboratory is also developing “cool-spot creation technology” for simulating the effects of greening and predicting the cooling effects of shade and transpiration created by trees. Toyota, in conjunction with Tokyo Institute of Technology, developed a method of accurately measuring the amount of transpiration from trees and is building a model for predicting the surface temperature of trees. Through use of this model together with thermal environmental simulators, Toyota aims to achieve a visual simulation of greening effects that can determine the types, numbers, and positioning of trees needed to achieve the desired cooling effect. This cool spot formation technology is aimed for commercialization by the end of 2012.

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