Panasonic Invention Increases Efficiency, Reduces Fuel Cell Waste

The Panasonic Corporation of Osaka, Japan, is a multinational electronics developer and manufacturer which is responsible for an incredibly large amount of our world’s technological progress. This company is busy developing products for a long line of consumer and business solutions, and has even been getting into the world of medical roboting in recent years. Although corporate executives expect a slowdown in profits during 2014, the corporation does expect to post its third straight year of increased profits. Recently, Panasonic put some of its business-to-business technologies on display at the Kentucky Derby, including the installation of a 15,244-square-foot screen ultra-high-definition LED television that showcased the race to those in attendance at Churchill Downs.

In the latest edition of IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series, we’re taking our first ever look at the inventions coming out of the facilities of this major Japanese electronics manufacturer. Our search of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s recent publications showed us plenty of innovations in medical services, lighting, content management and other fields utilizing electronics. Today, we’re sharing some of our favorite patent applications and issued patents with our readers to get a closer look at one of the world’s top intellectual property filing corporations.

Fuel cell technologies have become a bigger focus in our world as we seek to get away from fossil fuel emissions, and today’s featured patent application looks to take a big step in that direction. This technology improves the strength of seals within fuel cells, improving the efficient use of fuel gases for energy generation. Other intriguing patent applications we discuss today involve some novel medical device technologies as well as improved lighting arrays for light-emitting diodes and electroluminescence systems.

Panasonic is a heavyweight in the world of patent protections, and it has recently been issued dozens of patents protecting its electronic products. One patent we discuss relates to methods of improving music playback in electronic devices when an incoming phone call is registered. Another interesting patent relates to portable beds in medical facilities which can easily transport patients from room to room. We also noticed a couple of patents again related to various lighting technologies developed by this corporation.

[Companies-1]

 

Fuel Cell and Manufacturing Method Thereof
U.S. Patent Application No. 20140120452

Many companies, especially those in the industry of auto manufacturing, have been busy developing a variety of fuel cell technologies to power various systems without using fossil fuel-based energy sources. Some clean-energy companies manufacturing fuel cells have seen stock prices rise by 100% or more since the beginning of this year, a sign that their technologies are being highly sought after by many. Even major corporations like Toyota are implementing fuel cell technologies to greatly reduce carbon emissions at their corporate headquarters and sales facilities.

In most cases, a fuel cell creates energy by electrochemically reacting a fuel gas containing hydrogen with an oxidant gas containing oxygen. Helping to facilitate this reaction is a membrane-electrode-assembly (MEA). Conductive separators on either side of this MEA are capable of holding a flow of gas into a passage. The electrochemical reaction of these two gases occurs within the MEA.

Panasonic filed this patent application with the USPTO as of February 2013 to protect a fuel cell design that improves upon the amount of energy generated within a single fuel cell. Instead of the MEA typical of previous fuel cells, this design incorporates a polymer electrolyte membrane attached to a catalyst layer. The catalyst layer and a frame layer form a gas diffusion layer together where the electrochemical reaction of hydrogen and oxygen can occur.

This design is capable of increasing the power output of newly manufactured power cells. Prior designs could allow a condition known as a wraparound phenomenon to occur. In a wraparound phenomenon, a small clearance between the gas diffusion layer and seal would allow gas to leave the fuel cell without reacting to create energy. This design provides for better seal compression, increasing the efficiency of fuel gas and reducing the waste created by fuel cell units.

As Claim 1 states, Panasonic is hoping to protect:

“A fuel cell comprising: a polymer electrolyte membrane; a catalyst layer provided on the polymer electrolyte membrane; a frame member provided on an outer circumferential area of the polymer electrolyte membrane; a gas diffusion layer provided on the catalyst layer and the frame member so that an outer edge of the gas diffusion layer is positioned on outer side relative to an inner edge of the frame member as seen from a thickness direction of the polymer electrolyte membrane; a separator provided on the gas diffusion layer; and a seal member, made of resin, which is brought into contact with both the separator and the frame member, wherein at least one of the seal member and an outer circumferential portion of the gas diffusion layer is squashed by the other in the thickness direction.”

 

Other Patent Applications

From U.S. Patent Application No. 20140121490, titled “Acousto-Optic Imaging Device.”

Panasonic’s major product offerings including home appliances, industrial devices and business technology, but they are involved in diverse fields within electronics. A pair of patent applications which caught our eyes today show that this company’s innovations can be found everywhere, even in the field of medical care. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140121490, titled Acousto-Optic Imaging Device, discusses a device that obtains clearer ultrasonic echoes for medical imaging techniques such as ultrasounds. This device enhances the acousto-optic reducing the number of piezoelectric elements needed in the device, which reduces the overall size of the device as well. Visual and ophthalmic tests for healthcare purposes will benefit from the technology described in U.S. Patent Application No. 20140118685, which is titled Visual Function Testing Device. The devices described in this patent application is capable of testing binocular vision, stereopsis, visual acuity and eye position in patients without requiring the use of multiple optical testing devices.

We also took some time to look at some novel lighting systems developed by this Japanese corporation for use in a wide array of electronic appliances. Better control of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) through printed circuit boards is the focus of U.S. Patent Application No. 20140111991, entitled Light-Emitting Device and Lighting Apparatus. This new LED design allows manufacturers to mount these lights onto circuit boards without causing thermal expansion of the circuit board. Panasonic is also involved in developing electroluminescence (EL) lighting systems, as featured in U.S. Patent Application No. 20140111094, filed under the title Illumination System. The technology described in this patent application is designed to provide EL lighting systems for residential applications which reduce the necessary wiring required for installation, reducing the unwanted appearance of wires and increasing the ease with which a technician may install these systems.

[Companies-6]

 

Issued Patents of Note

Sony and Canon may be the top Japanese intellectual property developers in terms of U.S. patent grants, but Panasonic follows up closely behind them and is a global force in research and development. According to statistics released earlier this year by IFI Claims, Panasonic was issued 2,601 U.S. patents in 2013, 6th-most in the world during that year and 3rd-place among Japanese companies. What we found in our most recent search of Panasonic’s patented technologies show us that an incredible breadth of consumer and business technologies are being created by this company.

From U.S. Patent No. 8718237, entitled “Mobile Phone with Music Reproduction Function…”

Today, we took a closer look at a couple of recently issued patents which discuss improved methods of providing various forms of media or multimedia content to users. Methods of improving content playback from content management servers are protected by U.S. Patent No. 8719880, which is titled Content Management Server and Content Management Method. This technology allows content to be edited directly on a management server while minimizing the effects of editing processes on content playback. Electronic device owners who despise music and audio issues created by incoming phone calls may be interested in U.S. Patent No. 8718237, entitled Mobile Phone with Music Reproduction Function, Music Data Reproduction Method by Mobile Phone with Music Reproduction Function, and the Program Thereof. This system is designed to let a user listening to music through a smartphone that an incoming call is being received without having to immediately stop music playback or affect the listening experience in a way that is uncomfortable for users.

Once again, we noticed some additional lighting technologies in Panasonic’s recently issued patents, showing that this company has long been interested in improving lighting applications for a variety of its appliances. A solid-state light source utilizing LEDs which is able to modulate the frequency of a current is protected by U.S. Patent No. 8716949, titled Lighting Device for Solid-State Light Source and Illumination Apparatus Using Same. This frequency modulation system is more effective at switching between levels of LED frequency without creating unnecessary delay periods or flickering. U.S. Patent No. 8716736, issued under the title Surface Light Emitting Device, furthers Panasonic’s intellectual property holdings in the area of electroluminescence (EL) devices. This technology increases the light extraction efficiency of EL devices by reducing the light lost through total reflection between the light emitting layer and the light transmitting substrate. The surface light emitting device of this invention is also designed to be weatherproof and waterproof.

From U.S. Patent No. 8718859, titled “Traveling Vehicle and Bed.”

We wanted to finish today’s check-in with Panasonic’s patented technologies by looking at another unique, and perhaps a little bizarre, medical technology protected by U.S. Patent No. 8718859, titled Traveling Vehicle and Bed. This patent protects a self-propelled vehicle that can transport a stationary bed through a medical or healthcare facility by the use of a coordinates system. This technology enables a method of transporting patients between different areas of a medical facility while reducing the physical burden on nurses and other professional staff.

The Author

Steve Brachmann

Steve Brachmann is a freelance journalist located in Buffalo, New York. He has worked professionally as a freelancer for more than a decade. He writes about technology and innovation. His work has been published by The Buffalo News, The Hamburg Sun, USAToday.com, Chron.com, Motley Fool and OpenLettersMonthly.com. Steve also provides website copy and documents for various business clients and is available for research projects and freelance work.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com. Read more.

Discuss this

There are currently 1 Comment comments.

  1. Jeff Williams May 10, 2014 3:19 pm

    A lot of great things are happening in the fuel cell technology sector! Good stuff!

    Video below of what is happening in California at municipal wastewater treatment plants using fuel cell technology to produce 3 value streams of electricity, hydrogen and heat all from a human waste! This is pretty impressive in my opinion for hydro-refueling infrastructure.

    “New fuel cell sewage gas station in Orange County, CA may be world’s first”

    http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=news/local/orange_county&id=8310315

    “It is here today and it is deployable today,” said Tom Mutchler of Air Products and Chemicals Inc., a sponsor and developer of the project.

    2.8MW fuel cell using biogas now operating; Largest PPA of its kind in North America

    http://www.fuelcelltoday.com/news-events/news-archive/2012/october/28-mw-fuel-cell-using-biogas-now-operating-largest-ppa-of-its-kind-in-north-america

    Microsoft Backs Away From Grid

    http://blogs.wsj.com/cio/2012/11/20/microsoft-backs-away-slowly-from-the-grid/

    Hyundai “Tuscon” Fuel Cell Vehicle
    $499 per month w/ Free Fuel & Free Maintenance from Hyundai!!! (pure water for exhaust)
    https://www.hyundaiusa.com/tucsonfuelcell/

    Toyota joins California Hydrogen Push in Station Funding – Bloomberg
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-05-01/california-awards-46-6-million-for-hydrogen-car-stations.html

    also…

    Construction of world’s largest fuel cell power plant. (in South Korea? with USA developed fuel cell technology??)
    http://www.fuelcelltoday.com/news-events/news-archive/2012/october/construction-of-worlds-largest-fuel-cell-power-plant-expected-to-commence-in-2012