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Daily Archives: June 2, 2022

Music Video: Venus

Chart: NATO Countries Have Heavily Cut Troop Levels

Source : Statista

Fastest Carbon Dioxide Catcher Heralds New Age for Direct Air Capture

Researchers from Tokyo Metropolitan University have developed a new carbon capture system which removes carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere with unprecedented performance. Isophorone diamine (IPDA) in a “liquid-solid phase separation” system was found to remove carbon dioxide at the low concentrations contained in the atmosphere with 99% efficiency. The compound is reusable with minimal heating and at least twice as fast as existing systems, an exciting new development for direct air capture.

The devastating effects of climate change are being felt around the world, with an urgent need for new policies, lifestyles and technologies that will lead to reduced carbon emissions. However, many scientists are looking further ahead than a net-zero emission goal, to a future “beyond zero” where we can actively reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The field of carbon capture, the removal and subsequent storage or conversion of carbon dioxide, is developing rapidly, but hurdles remain before it can be deployed at scale.

The biggest challenges come from efficiency, particularly in processing atmospheric air directly in so-called direct air capture (DAC) systems. The concentrations of carbon dioxide are such that chemical reactions with sorbents are very slow. There is also the difficulty of getting the carbon dioxide out again in more sustainable capture-and-desorption cycles, which can be very energy intensive in itself. Even leading efforts to build DAC plants, such as those using potassium hydroxide and calcium hydroxide, suffer serious efficiency issues and recovery costs, making the hunt for new processes notably urgent.

A team led by Professor Seiji Yamazoe of Tokyo Metropolitan University have been studying a class of DAC technology known as liquid-solid phase separation systems. Many DAC systems involve bubbling air through a liquid, with a chemical reaction occurring between the liquid and the carbon dioxide. As the reaction proceeds, more of the reaction product accumulates in the liquid; this makes subsequent reactions slower and slower. Liquid-solid phase separation systems offer an elegant solution, where the reaction product is insoluble and comes out of solution as a solid. There is no accumulation of product in the liquid, and the reaction speed does not slow down much.

The team focused their attention on liquid amine compounds, modifying their structure to optimize reaction speed and efficiency with a wide range of concentrations of carbon dioxide in air, from around 400ppm to up to 30%. They found that an aqueous solution of one of these compounds, isophorone diamine (IPDA), could convert 99% of the carbon dioxide contained in the air to a solid carbamic acid precipitate. Crucially, they demonstrated that the solid dispersed in solution only required heating to 60 degrees Celsius to completely release the captured carbon dioxide, recovering the original liquid. The rate at which carbon dioxide could be removed was at least twice as fast as that of the leading DAC lab systems, making it the fastest carbon dioxide capture system in the world at present for processing low concentration carbon dioxide in air (400ppm).

The team’s new technology promises unprecedented performance and robustness in DAC systems, with wide implications for carbon capture systems deployed at scale. Beyond improving their system further, their vision of a “beyond zero” world now turns to how the captured carbon may be effectively used, in industrial applications and household products.


Source : EurekAlert!

Charts: China NBS and Caixin Manufacturing PMI Increased in May But Still Below 50

Source : Trading Economics

虛實並濟 銀行大勢

作者: 謝國生, 章穎芝 . . . . . . . . .

香港金融管理局2017年9月就針對金融業數碼化,以「智慧銀行新紀元」為題,推出多項倡議;隨後於2021年6月公布「金融科技2025」策略,迎向銀行業要以科技為基礎的未來,旨在促進銀行採用科技、增強數據基礎設施、支持不斷發展的數碼生態系統。繼2017年清晰表達把虛擬銀行引進本港之後,該局翌年即發出《虛擬銀行的認可》指引修訂本;虛擬銀行須遵守適用於傳統銀行的同一套監管規定,在合乎其運作性質及所承擔的銀行業風險情況下,維持最少3億元繳足款股本。

香港的虛擬銀行計劃別具特色,包括:一、規定銀行不設實體分支機構,所有服務以互聯網或其他形式的電子傳送途徑提供。二、促進金融包容性(financial inclusion)。三、容納大型科技公司和金融科技公司參與所有權結構。四、維持風險和技術中立的監管框架。

2020年,8家虛擬銀行在港全面營運,令特區正式步入金融科技的新時代。截至同年12月,其存款總額約為158億元,佔銀行業存款總額的0.11%。虛擬銀行存款額中,以眾安銀行和Mox Bank佔比最大,分別為38%和33%。基於開業初期須投巨資於辦公設備、員工成本、資訊技術等,並以較高的存款利率招徠客戶,從【表】可見,虛擬銀行紛紛出現稅前虧損,但隨着客戶數量和存款總額增加,假以時日,可望達致收支平衡,甚至盈利。

勢頭冒現 由西至東

虛擬銀行熱潮始於歐洲和美國,至今席捲中國、日本、新加坡、南韓等亞洲地區。目前,中國內地有19家非國有銀行,其中一些沒有實體分行,因此被歸類為虛擬銀行;2020年,其總資產為1.25萬億元人民幣,其中微眾銀行和網商銀行共佔高達52%的市場份額。

至於日本,虛擬銀行主要包括在2000年代初成立的PayPay。新一代的虛擬銀行卻並無完整的銀行執照,只能提供單一金融服務,例如借記卡、信用卡、匯款等,透過替代數據開發自身(或採用第三方)的創新銀行系統和信貸模式,主要開發類似社交媒體或遊戲的應用程式,有別於2000年代所採用的傳統銀行核心銀行系統和信貸模式。

時至今日,在某些地區,女性和年輕人仍是傳統銀行忽略的客戶群體,尤具金融包容性的虛擬銀行則可補此不足。Chen等(2022)的研究指出,在設有虛擬銀行的地區中,最大的用戶群體介乎25至34歲以及35至44歲,其中女性佔重要比例。以南韓為例,女性客戶比例為49%,而當地虛擬銀行Kakao的女性用戶佔比更達57%。

亞洲第一家數碼銀行Jibun Bank早於2008年在日本成立。女性客戶在該國所有虛擬銀行總客戶中佔比超過三分之一,顯示虛擬銀行對年輕及女性用戶有一定吸引力。

創意服務 破舊立新

虛擬銀行借助科技無遠弗屆的優勢,向客戶提供全天候數碼化服務,一律在線進行。服務對象集中於零售業及中小企業,範圍涵蓋基本零售銀行服務、商業和個人客戶的存款和貸款。由於採用數碼技術,除可降低作業成本之外,兼具以下競爭力。首先,既可根據平台上客戶的大數據調整產品,從而吸引新客戶,亦可和其他公司合作,以改善客戶介面。舉例來說,客戶可以使用支付處理平台(如Stripe、Venmo),在線發送和接收款項,以及使用電子錢包(如支付寶、PayMe),通過掃描二維碼方式來增值和進行支付。這種在線接觸客戶的技術,將有助於金融業開拓新市場。

年輕一代熱中於探索新技術應用,無疑是虛擬銀行的潛在客戶群,因而產生不少相關促銷活動,以便及早鞏固其市場影響力。例如某大虛擬銀行的推廣計劃,可讓客戶優先訂購人氣男團MIRROR演唱會門票,就曾哄動一時。由於營運成本較低,虛擬銀行或會透過推出五花八門的優惠和高達幾厘的優厚存款利率吸客。

科技為本 以長補短
據世界銀行統計,在其企業調查數據庫中的16.4萬家公司中,約有89%的公司在金融機構擁有支票或儲蓄賬戶,但只有不到三分之一的公司擁有銀行貸款或信貸額度。經濟學指出,信貸市場經常出現貸款人和借款人之間的資訊不對稱(information asymmetry)問題,而傳統實體銀行往往要求貸款人以有形抵押品作為貸款擔保。事實上,世界銀行企業調查全球數據庫的最新證據顯示,超過70%的受訪公司需要抵押品才能從正規金融系統貸款。

若傳統實體銀行無法區分借款人的風險水平,則會以提高利率增加風險溢價,從而減低損失。優質借款人因借貸成本過高而卻步,便會產生劣幣驅逐良幣的逆向選擇(adverse selection)惡果,市場只餘下高風險借款人,導致利率上升和貸款減少,銀行營運成本大增。

資訊不對稱和高昂的營運成本,亦窒礙傳統銀行向低利潤、高風險客戶提供服務。虛擬銀行正好掌握此一契機;利用大數據、物聯網、人工智能等創造「資訊資本」,降低交易成本,並減輕借款人和貸款人之間的資訊不對稱,以及對有形抵押品的依賴。這亦有助於改善風險評估和監控,而小額融資亦可以更為靈活,可根據客戶的信貸狀況及需求而提供貼身服務。

認清隱患 前途可期

至於虛擬銀行控股公司的多樣性,參與銀行業的公司種類愈多,就愈須在促進創新和包容性之間取得平衡,在維護金融穩定及充分競爭的同時,又要保護客戶群權益和市場誠信,以免不法之徒有可乘之機。其次,虛擬銀行既採用數據技術,數據分析是人工智能的支柱,但社會偏見卻易於嵌入人工智能中,以致破壞金融系統的包容性,何況人工智能算法亦難以百分之百滿足「公平」原則。

目前設於香港的虛擬銀行與其他現有銀行接受相同的監管,須由本地註冊銀行營運。大股東須為信譽良好,並為受香港或其他地方有關當局監管的銀行或金融機構,這有助於維持創新和競爭市場的環境,同時確保最終用戶不必承擔不當風險。然而,金融管理局在監管中採用以風險為本和技術中立的方法,着眼於促進金融包容性和創新,以提供更佳的客戶體驗。因此,在實施監管框架時,如何認清金融活動中的交易性質及風險至關重要。

展望未來,虛擬銀行將會繼續利用數碼技術優勢,開發多元化產品和服務以吸引客戶,例如財富管理服務、各類促銷計劃(如購物折扣),以及為客戶提供具競爭力的存款利率,與傳統銀行競爭。其目標客戶群亦將不只局限於年輕一代,進而包括積蓄較多並愈來愈樂於接受虛擬金融服務的長者。


Source : HKU