To help resolve global water issues and ensure that people throughout the world have access to clean, safe water, the research team put together by Shinshu University and its COI partners has built a robust organization for collaboration between Japanese academia, industry, and government that will tap Shinshu University's unique strengths in carbon and fiber materials R&D in combination with Japanese manufacturing technologies. This Center, named Global Aqua Innovation Center for Improving Living Standards and Water-sustainability, will conduct research and development in the field of innovative water desalination and reclamation systems, involving itself in all stages up to deployment in society.
University researchers, private sector engineers, and others will gather at the Center's core facility at Shinshu University to work on the development of durable water separation membranes and other applications that leverage revolutionary materials such as nanocarbons, and on modularization, systematization, production plant design, commercialization and other activities aimed at bringing innovative water desalination and reclamation systems to fruition.
The National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) and RIKEN are also participating as satellite organizations that will focus on their respective strengths in carbon materials and water/material surface science R&D to support the Center's R&D activities. A further collaborative satellite center (COI-S) led by the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) will conduct research on water circulation analysis, prediction and simulation, and drive the social implementation of research results.
Shinshu University values the mountainous natural environment of Shinshu, providing education and conducting research aimed at creating a caring society. The University has long worked with local industry and the community at large on initiatives aimed at achieving these goals, and we pursue original, world-class interdisciplinary research in line with our principle of working in harmony with nature. The Center of Innovation (COI) program is an R&D program driven by a national vision of how Japan should develop over the next decade. As part of this program, the Global Aqua Innovation Center aims to ensure that people throughout the world have access to adequate supplies of clean, safe water. To this end, we are focusing on the development of innovative desalination and water reclamation systems. Marshaling research capabilities of the whole University with a particular focus on nanofiber engineering and materials science (both key strengths of the University), the Center has also brought together research institutes and private enterprises to create an all-Japan organization for researching nanofiltration (NF) and reverse osmosis (RO) membranes, and for modularizing these technologies to develop systems for real-world deployment. Given the tremendous diversity in both location and purpose of such systems, we need to tackle our mission from many different perspectives, and we greatly appreciate the cooperation and support that we receive for our efforts to achieve these goals.
Executive Technology Adviser
Water is among humankind's most important resources. Recently, however, trends toward accelerating population growth, increasing population density in urban areas, and rising standards of living have generated serious water issues worldwide, including water shortages and pollution. Other factors driving increased water use include agricultural and industrial development and efforts to extract oil, natural gas, and mineral resources. At a time when all aspects of human lives are globally interrelated, we must look beyond local perspectives in order to view water and water-related issues in the proper global framework. In this light, efforts to develop and refine the technology needed to desalinate sea water and implement water circulation systems capable of purifying contaminated water for human use will be of the utmost importance. In response to these challenges, Shinshu University is playing a central role in bringing together research institutions and companies to develop robust, high-quality water-separation membranes based on advanced nanocarbon technologies, and to use such membranes in the development of innovative, world-leading water production and circulation systems.
This Center of Innovation will tackle the challenges of water-related innovation, ranging from basic research to practical implementation.
Institute of Carbon Science and Technology,
Water will be a key issue in ensuring the sustainability of the human race in the 21st century. The purpose of this project is to make abundant water available for residential, industrial, agricultural, and livestock uses through innovations in water-production science and technology, and to apply these innovations in the recovery of usable water from previously untapped or underutilized sources, including sea, produced and waste water.
To achieve the necessary innovations in water production, this facility will push forward with concurrent and parallel R&D efforts in areas ranging from the development of innovative and robust water-separation membranes based on nanocarbons (and equipment incorporating these membranes) to the development of water-production plant systems and technologies to simulate water circulation. The facility will promote joint research through partnerships involving industry, academia, and the public sector, assembling experts from across Japan. Shinshu University will play a central role in these efforts.
In addition, by developing business models that can be deployed worldwide, this project will create new industries in communities across Japan and the world. In so doing, and through innovations in water-production science and technology, this project will help to ensure a century of global water abundance.
Sub Project Leader
Technology Center (Water Treatment),
Research & Development Division,
Toray Industries, Inc.
Today, water-separation membranes produce and purify some 20 billion cubic meters of water each year worldwide, roughly equivalent to 20% of Japan's annual water use. Population growth, advancing industrialization, and economic development are expected to drive growing water use on a global basis.
To meet the needs generated by this growth, an ever-widening net has been cast to identify additional water sources: from groundwater, river water, and inland waters to sea water and consumer and industrial wastewater. Nonetheless, it is becoming ever more difficult to secure high-quality water.
Many of the problems confronting water treatment plants that use separation membranes involve the fouling of separation membranes. Since fouling is inevitable when using such membranes, plants must find ways to continue operating efficiently while cleaning them, whether by chemical or other means.
Key features of separation membranes required to secure high-quality water at a reasonable cost include (i) a correct balance between water permeability and separation performance at high levels and (ii) resistance to heat and chemicals.
Selective separation, which is required to recover valuable materials from water, is also expected to become a major feature as we move forward.
Nanocarbon technologies will be core to all these efforts, and we expect this facility to develop world-leading separation membrane technologies, module technologies, and systems technologies.
Officer in charge of Corporate R&D
Department/General Manager, Business
Showa Denko K.K.
I'd like to offer some comments at the start of the COI project, "Global Aqua Innovation Center for Improving Living Standards and Water-sustainability." Although we appear to live on a blue planet, the fresh water we can actually use without significant treatment accounts for a mere 0.01% of the Earth's water.
Accordingly, there is an urgent need to develop methods for using water, which despite its illusion of abundance is a highly limited resource, in ways that can support humanity.
We must keep in mind that, even today, many people around the world lack access to safe drinking water, and that limited water resources can lead to serious conflict, food shortages, and other problems.
With Shinshu University playing a central role, this project has as its goal the development of innovative technologies for new water production and circulation systems. I believe these efforts will be instrumental in identifying solutions to these problems.
As project participants, we at Showa Denko intend to play a key role by developing technologies based on carbon materials.
Polymer Materials Unit Director
Advanced Key Technologies Division, National Institute for Materials Science
The National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) pursues research related to advanced water-treatment technologies intended to contribute to the areas of energy and the environment.
Until now, we have developed high-performance filters and oil adsorbents based on state-of-the-art research on measurement, simulation, and nanomaterials, including polymers and carbon. In this COI project, in addition to developing new materials and assessing their performance, we will work to establish manufacturing processes for the mass production of carbon-based nanoporous water-treatment membranes. We will also seek to improve the durability of water-treatment membranes as well as related manufacturing processes based on concurrent feedback and assessment results from real-world environments.
In many cases, the separation functional materials needed for applications like resource development and environmental protection will be used in harsh, constantly changing environments.
Their deployment will also be bound by strict cost constraints. By overcoming these challenges, this project seeks to secure safe and reliable water supplies worldwide.
I wish to express my heartfelt congratulations to the "Global Aqua Innovation Center for Improving Living Standards and Water-sustainability" based at Shinshu University, for its selection as a core Center of Innovation. I would also like to offer my best wishes upon the commencement of advanced R&D efforts involving numerous participants from across Japan who have gathered here in Shinshu, Nagano Prefecture.
This project will contribute to the creation of a next-generation industry as set forth in the prefecture's comprehensive five-year plan, the Shiawase Shinshu Sozo Plan ("Plan to Create a Happy Shinshu"). We have the highest expectations for this project and believe it will help transform the prefecture's economy to one based on "contributions" and "self-sufficiency." The prefectural government will also actively participate in the project by coordinatinge the facility's activities with those of local businesses, thereby promoting R&D activities as well as rapid business development based on new technologies.
It is my hope that all parties to this venture will achieve notable success and that the R&D undertaken at the facility will generate innovations that one day lead to a more advanced and prosperous society.