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Updated on September 7, 2016

Developing the Environmental Technologies of the Future

Triporous™ Plant-Based Porous Carbon Material


  • Triporous™ and its logo
Humankind is facing a major challenge with global environmental pollution due to industrialization, and therefore is creating a strong demand for technological solutions. Sony has responded by developing Triporous™, a new carbon material that can be used to enhance water and air quality, and help make improvements on several environmental issues. Triporous™ is made from rice husks and other raw biomass materials that contain silica (a component of glass), which are processed to give the material a unique, fine structure that easily absorbs substances that are otherwise difficult to absorb using existing technology. Triporous™ can be used to make high-performance filters that effectively remove pollutants such as viruses, allergens, and PM2.5* from water and air. In 2014, Sony received The 21st Century Encouragement of Invention Prize from the Japan Institute of Invention and Innovation for developing Triporous™ technology.

Japan alone generates more than two million tons of rice husk waste each year. Sony is currently developing technology and practical applications for Triporous™, to help recycle excess biomass (rice husks) and address global environmental pollution.

*
Particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) refers to fine particles with a diameter of 2.5 μm or less that are suspended in air.

Synecoculture

Conventional agriculture largely focuses on increasing productivity from a single crop, by plowing top soil, spreading fertilizer, and applying pesticides based on the characteristics of the crop. These practices damage ecosystems and cause other environmental problems. Sony Computer Science Laboratories, Inc. (Sony CSL) is testing applications for synecoculture, a sustainable agricultural practice that balances productivity with the need to reduce environmental impact. Synecoculture eliminates the need for plowing, fertilizing, and pesticide use that impact the environment, by taking maximum advantage of the material cycling that occurs naturally in ecosystems, aiming to create rich ecosystems with a diverse mix of plants that coexist together. Synecoculture requires vast knowledge of plant ecology, and for several years Sony CSL has been conducting tests at a number of farms, cultivating a blend of plants in order to collect data on plant compatibility and soil conditions. Sony is also using original IT tools to develop a synecoculture support system based on the test data.

  • A synecoculture farm, where a diverse blend of useful plants are cultivated together

  • Elements of Synecoculture support system

Open Energy Systems

Although renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power generation have been attracting much attention in recent years, there are significant issues to overcome before thinly dispersed renewable energy can be utilized effectively. Sony CSL is conducting research on Open Energy Systems (OES), which enable ultra-distributed electricity transmission and distribution and can be built using a bottom-up approach. Sony CSL has teamed up with the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) to pursue joint OES demonstration experiments using Sony's storage batteries. In 2013, this research was selected by the Okinawa Prefectural Government to be part of its subtropical and island energy infrastructure technology research subsidy program, with Sony CSL and OIST collaborating on "Research Related to Distributed DC Power Control for the Realization of OES." In fiscal 2014, Sony CSL installed photovoltaic panels and energy storage systems in 19 residences in the university's faculty housing area, and built a DC-based OES (DCOES) to interconnect the residences with DC power lines. The researchers are conducting experiments to test automatic power interchange among residences. In fiscal 2015, Sony CSL continued to operate the experimental installation of the DCOES stably.
  • DCOES Powering 19 Residences in OIST Faculty Housing Area
    The electric power interchange system automatically compensates for imbalances between power generation and electricity consumption across residences, which are interconnected by DC power lines and communication lines.
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