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Research & Development

Towards Safer, More Comfortable Living through Shimizu's Sustained, Long-Term Research Efforts

Construction supports all aspects of our lives, and the scope of construction research is necessarily broad-ranging. Each day, Shimizu researchers conduct biotope observations, attempt to build new energy networks, and investigate and experiment with wind channels, acoustics, and seismic vibrations, among other areas. Rapid technological progress and new activities in many industries have generated new needs in construction projects. To achieve safer, more secure, more comfortable ways of life by accurately identifying such trends for the present and future, we devote considerable effort to technological research and development at our Institute of Technology.

An overview of the Institute of Technology

Case Study: Completion of the Industry's Largest and Purest Clean Rooms: Responding to Cutting-Edge Precision Plant Construction Needs

Clean rooms provide core production functions at the latest semiconductor and LCD fabrication plants, where the operating environment must meet ultra-high standards for manufacturing precision and air particle contamination. Developing technologies to advance clean room performance even further is a critical requirement in this field. Shimizu has completed the construction of a new building at the company's technical R&D site that incorporates the largest clean-room testing facilities in the construction industry. They also achieve the highest levels of cleanliness anywhere in the world. The new facility contains three clean-room environments adapted to different research aims: a mock-up clean room, a super-nano clean room, and a biological clean room. The mock-up clean room is the industry's largest such space, measuring 7 m in width by 14 m in length by 14 m in height. Amid trends toward greater scale and resolution in production lines for semiconductors and other devices, large clean rooms are growing increasingly important. This mock-up facility meets these needs. Incorporating the latest in manufacturing equipment, the clean room permits production trials under real-scale production conditions.

The super-nano clean room achieves "Class 0" contamination levels, the best in the world. This level is defined as less than one particle with a diameter of 0.1 microns per cubic meter of air. The room is designed to accommodate research for production facilities that require such ultra-pure environments. Shimizu plans to use this room for research and development work on advanced technologies related to clean-room environments. Working closely with customers in the industry, Shimizu seeks to use these facilities to facilitate rapid development of clean-room environments optimized for specific production processes.

The new clean-room building
The biological clean room is used to perform validation tests for bio-related cleaning technologies required in drug manufacturing plants and medical facilities.

The mock-up clean room
This room allows research under conditions identical to actual production lines to help customers find ways to improve manufacturing productivity, a critical issue.

Case Study: A Major Step Toward Securing a Next-Generation Energy Source—Successful Experiment in Recovering Near-Surface Methane Hydrate Gas

In August 2008, together with the Limnological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Kitami Institute of Technology, and Hokkaido University, Shimizu completed the world's first successful experiments in dissociation and gas recovery from methane hydrate trapped in the lakebed surface layer of Russia's Lake Baikal.

Attracting attention as a next-generation energy source to replace petroleum and other fuels, methane hydrate is a fossil fuel that contains methane gas and is found in submarine layers at depths of 100 to 300 m beneath the beds of large, deep seas and lakes. Estimates indicate that the seas near Japan contain enough methane hydrate to satisfy the nation's natural-gas needs for a century. Recent studies have also confirmed that methane hydrate is found in near-surface layers under the sea floor and in similar locations. Putting methane hydrate to actual use will require safe and economical gas-recovery methods. While research and development proceeds on recovery technologies for deep layers, no technology has yet been established for recovery from near-surface layers.

This experiment involved the excavation and agitation of near-surface methane hydrate layers on the bed of Lake Baikal, pumping to the lake surface methane hydrate dissolved in water, then dissociating and recovering gas from this material. This marked the world's first experiment to recover gas successfully from underwater methane hydrate.

From the perspective of securing access to diverse deposits of resources, the success of this experiment marks major progress in resource development for Japan. Researchers will continue to work to improve gas-recovery rates and economic feasibility, with the goal of establishing practical technologies within four years.

An overview of the experiment

Methane hydrate found in near-surface layers in the bed of Lake Baikal. This experiment confirmed that 90% of the gases recovered after agitation for approximately 100 minutes were hydrocarbon gases such as methane and ethane. (Photo: Kitami Institute of Technology)

This steel cylindrical chamber, 1.2 m in diameter, 2 m high, and weighing approximately 840 kg, has 32 water-jet nozzles for excavation and agitation. (Photo: Kitami Institute of Technology)

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