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New Research Results


Development of New Thermoelectric Materials that Generate Electricity Perpendicular to Heat Flow
– Expectations for new maintenance-free thermoelectric modules that do not degrade the electrode interface –

Researchers at AIST, in collaboration with Shimane University, have succeeded in developing a unique thermoelectric material (goniopolar material) that can orthogonalize temperature differences and current direction.
Most primary energy is discharged as heat, and to make effective use of this unused heat (waste heat), development of thermoelectric materials that convert heat into electricity is underway worldwide. In recent years, new materials with high performance have been reported one after another, but only Bi2Te3 based materials, which were discovered more than half a century ago and operate near room temperature, have been put to practical use. The lack of practical thermoelectric modules that can operate at temperatures higher than room temperature has hindered progress in power generation using waste heat. In particular, conventional thermoelectric modules have a "longitudinal" configuration in which the heat flow and the power generation direction are the same, which causes elemental diffusion and other reactions at the electrode interface in contact with the high-temperature heat source during power generation, leading to degradation, which poses a durability challenge. The research group fabricated single crystals of Mg3Sb2 and Mg3Bi2 with precisely controlled carrier density and discovered an extremely unique property (goniopolarity) that leads to the realization of "transverse" thermoelectric modules in which the heat flow and power generation direction are orthogonal. The transverse thermoelectric module does not require electrodes at the high-temperature side of the module, which prevents thermal degradation, and is expected to drastically solve the durability issue that has been the bottleneck of conventional thermoelectric modules.
First-principles calculations were performed to elucidate the origin of the goniopolarity, and it was found that the sign of charge carriers differs depending on the crystallographic direction due to the anisotropy of the electronic structure. Since there are many materials with similar characteristics, the application of the method used in this study is expected to lead to the development of thermoelectric modules with higher performance.

Figure of new research results Energy and Environment


Gut Microbes Prime Immunity of Pest Insects – Gut microbes break through the intestinal tract to activate the insect immune system –

A researcher in AIST, in collaboration with the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) of France, has clarified for the first time how pest insects become resistant to disease through the power of gut microbes.
Biological pesticides with low environmental impact are attracting attention in order to achieve sustainable agriculture. Compared to chemical pesticides, biological pesticides (e.g. pathogenic microorganisms of pest insects) can reduce residues harmful to the human body and biodiversity, but to improve their effectiveness in controlling pests, it is still necessary to know more about the immune mechanisms of pests against pathogenic microorganisms. In this study, the authors investigated the immune mechanism of the soybean pest, Riptortus pedestris, and found that some gut microbes break through the epithelial cells of the gut and interact with phagocytes and immune cells (fat body) inside the stink bug, stimulating the systemic immunity. Furthermore, the authors found that stink bugs whose immune systems are activated by gut microbes show a high survival rate even when pathogens infect them. These findings open a new window in the field of insect immunity and are important for improving the insecticidal efficiency of biopesticides.

Figure of new research results Life Science and Biotechnology

Dynamic Sign 11/22/2022

General Requirements for “Dynamic Signs” Published as an ISO Standard
– Japan leads in promoting establishment of international standards for new information presentation technology –

AIST proposed the general requirements of an international standard for dynamic signs with Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, and the proposal was adopted as ISO 23456-1:2021.
The more effective sign system will be established by developing individual standards under this international standard. We are expecting for the society sharing with various age groups, cultures, and perceptual and physical characteristics, such as the elderly and wheelchair users under the concept of accessibility for all people.

Figure of new research results Information Technology and Human Factors


Correct Free-energy Landscape Expressed by New Formula
– Correctly evaluates the stability and reactivity of the shape of molecules, such as of proteins and catalysts –

A researcher at AIST has established a method for evaluating free-energy landscape so that it is independent of the representation of the shape.
Free-energy landscape is used in a wide range of fields, such as simulating the expected progress of a reaction of a designed catalyst or predicting drug efficacy and side effects for use in drug development. However, conventional methods derive different free-energy landscapes depending on how the conformational changes of molecules in chemical reactions are represented, and the theoretical basis for quantitative prediction and interpretation has been weak.
In this study, the deformation motion of molecules is expressed by the Langevin equation, which is used to describe Brownian motion. By using the diffusion coefficient that appears in the equation, we succeeded in deriving a free-energy landscape that is independent of the representation of the shape. The results of this research set the theoretical foundation for quantitative discussions of catalytic reactions and protein folding reactions. It is expected that the formulas from this research will be used to provide high quality data on which to base the design of catalysts and pharmaceuticals.

Figure of new research results


Developed an Integrated Circuit That Automatically Compensates for the Sensitivity of High-performance Magnetic Sensors
– Cutting-edge integrated circuit design techniques stabilize sensor sensitivity and expand applications –

A researcher at AIST, in collaboration with Aichi Steel Corporation, has developed a highly sensitive magnetic sensor that can automatically compensate for fluctuations in detection sensitivity due to manufacturing variations and environmental changes.
Compact, highly sensitive magnetic sensors are needed in a wide variety of applications, including industrial and biological measurement. To apply them to fields such as IoT, their sensitivity must be maintained at a constant level. The cost of manually adjusting sensitivity has hindered the expansion of applications for small, high-sensitivity magnetic sensors.
By combining an application-specific integrated circuit (hereinafter referred to as "ASIC") with an automatic correction function originally designed by AIST and a magnetic impedance element (hereinafter referred to as "MI element") developed by Aichi Steel Corporation, the fluctuation of the magnetic detection sensitivity was reduced to 1/3 of its original level. This automatic calibration technique does not require a special test mode for the process, and can be performed in the background during normal sensing operation. The digital-output architecture achieves both easy handling of output signals and low power consumption. This approach is expected to expand the range of applications for compact, high-sensitivity magnetic sensors.

Figure of new research results Electronics and Manufacturing


Assessment of Seafloor Methane Dynamics in Gas Hydrate Area
– Coexistence of aerobic and anaerobic methanotrophs is key to methane consumption –

In 2020, AIST researchers estimated the microbially mediated methane consumption rate by chemical and microbiological analyses coupled with stable isotope tracer experiments of sediments collected from the seafloor off Sakata City, Yamagata Prefecture, where methane hydrates are distributed. They also discovered that in the redox transition zone below the seafloor, methane-oxidizing microorganisms that require oxygen for growth (aerobic methanotrophs) and those that do not (anaerobic methanotrophs) are metabolically active and consume methane. These findings contribute to an accurate understanding of the seafloor budget of methane.

Figure of new research results Geological Survey of Japan


Developed Evaluation Technology for Radio-frequency Components Used in Quantum Computers
– Measure temperature dependence of reflection and transmission characteristics from cryogenic to room temperature –

AIST researchers have developed a technique to evaluate the reflection and transmission characteristics (S parameters) of radio-frequency (RF) components at arbitrary temperature from 4 K to 300 K (-269 °C to 27 °C).
Quantum computer systems contain many RF components to transmit analog signals between the cryogenic quantum chip and the room-temperature electronics. However, most of them do not have guaranteed characteristics in cryogenic environments. Unexpected malfunctions of even a single RF component in a circuit consisting of many components can hinder the large-scale integration of quantum computers. Therefore, there is a need to establish a low-temperature evaluation method for RF components. This method improves on existing methods for measuring reflection and transmission characteristics to enable evaluation of RF components at arbitrary temperatures from 4 K to 300 K. The temperature-dependent information obtained by this technique is essential for the development process of high-performance RF components and will contribute to the advancement of quantum-related technologies. The technology will be deployed in a quantum hardware testbed at the Global Research Center for Quantum and AI Fusion Technology Business Development, which will begin offering measurement services to industry.

Newly developed radiation dosimeter

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