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Environmental Protection and Technology

Developing Environmental Technologies and Products

Developing Environmental Technologies and Products

Basic Policy on R&D

Developing new products and technologies to anticipate changes in the world around us

Our basic policy when it comes to development is to precisely identify customers’ needs and future technology trends, and to develop and provide products and technologies that anticipate changes in the world around us. With this policy in mind, we aim to provide the Earth with new materials that make the most of the group’s unique technologies. This means creating distinctive products and technologies that will be competitive in the global market, and upholding our strategy of becoming a world’s leading company.
We also engage in a development strategy with the aim of creating timely new products and technologies that will help us to become the number one, and “only one,” in each of our lines of business in the short term. Over the medium term, we intend to focus on developing new core businesses that will underpin the sustainable growth of the entire group, particularly in next-generation vehicles, IoT and AI-related products and areas where we can contribute to a realization of fulfilling sustainable society. On a longer-term basis, we intend to boldly take on the challenge of creating inspirational new technologies for the future. Combining technology, human resources and passion, our aim is to continually achieve innovation, with an emphasis on the customer’s perspective and speed.

Examples of environmentally friendly development

We are also committed to improving manufacturing processes, and reducing environmental impact from our materials and components. We use computer analysis technologies to optimize operating conditions at our cement plants, to achieve further reductions in CO2 emissions due to thermal energy sources. We have rolled out the same technology to manufacturing processes for copper smelting and polycrystalline silicon, to enable us to improve quality and increase efficiency. We are also working on technologies capable of harnessing alternatives to fossil fuels, including waste plastic and shredder dust, as well as using recycled raw materials in the smelting process and recovering rare metals from urban mines. In an effort to save energy and extend the life span of our materials and components meanwhile, we are working on development in areas such as coating films for cemented carbide products, battery materials, connector terminals, insulated circuit substrates and temperature sensors.

Research and development strategy

Research and development strategy

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Developing Environmental Technologies and Products

Major achievements in FY2020

Field Technology Application/ effect
Thermal management Development of nBoard®-R, a metal base substrate that contributes to extending the service life of LED head lamps for automobiles Introduction of higher output LED headlamps has led to growing demand for substrates with increasingly excellent heat radiation properties. We have developed a substrate with unprecedented heat radiation properties by achieving both voltage resistance and thermal conductivity, which was conventionally difficult to achieve. We will further improve this substrate to improve its reliability, aiming to contribute to extending the service life of LED headlamps.
Eco-friendly vehicles Development of a sintering bonding material for next-generation power modules, which can be bonded to copper materials without applying pressure We developed a sintering Ag bonding material which can be bonded directly to copper materials. This product can be bonded directly to copper-based insulated substrates. Further, it also ensures higher sintered density than conventionally possible through a pressureless bonding process. We aim to solve the cost problem, which has hampered its practical use, and to contribute to the improvement of the reliability of inverters controlling the power supply to the high-output motors of eco-friendly vehicles.
Recycling Commencement of a demonstration experiment ofa technology for diagnosing degradation of automotive lithium ion batteries We began a demonstration experiment for a technology for diagnosing the degradation of automotive lithium ion batteries when they are being replaced and disposed of, jointly with Goiku Battery Co., Ltd. This is aimed at contributing to the building of a system for reusing and recycling of lithium ion batteries.
Recycling Launch of a joint recycling test with Nippon Magnetic Dressing Co., Ltd. for the recycling of cobalt, nickel, and other metals We Installed our own-developed proprietary cobalt and nickel refining equipment on the premises of Nippon Magnetic Dressing's Hibiki Plant, initiating a demonstration project to recover cobalt and nickel battery materials from lithium ion batteries from used xEV and other sources. We will contribute to the stable supply of materials for lithium ion batteries and the building of a system for recycling the batteries.
Development of Technologies for Recovering Rare Metals from Lithium-Ion Batteries for xEVs (Electrified Vehicles)

We have begun a demonstration experiment at a recycling facility for recovering cobalt, nickel, and other rare metals contained in lithium ion batteries for xEVs*, which are expected to see a significant increase in recycling demand in the future. While the demand for lithium ion batteries is expected to continue increasing in the future due to the electrification of vehicles, there is concern over a shortage in the supply of cobalt and other rare metals as the main materials of batteries. Through demonstration projects conducted by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Ministry of the Environment, we have been engaged in the research and development of recycling related to discharge, disassembly, thermal decomposition, and transportation of used lithium ion batteries. By utilizing our technologies for wet smelting of rare metals, which were cultivated through nonferrous smelting, we have developed the refining equipment for recovering cobalt, nickel, and other rare metals from active materials of lithium ion batteries. We installed this equipment in a plant in Kitakyushu City, and we started operating the facility in fiscal 2020 for recycling lithium ion batteries, where the processes from disassembly of waste batteries, recovery, and refining are completed safely and with high efficiency. Aiming for commercial operation of this facility, we will proceed with a technical validation and development test for improved technologies based on the results of the validation.
We will establish technologies for the comprehensive recycling of lithium ion batteries from used xEVs and rejected goods from processes at battery manufacturers, aiming to contribute to the stable supply of materials for lithium ion batteries and building a system for recycling the batteries.

* xEV: Collective name of electrified vehicles, including hybrid vehicles (HEVs), plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEV), and battery electrified vehicles (BEVs)

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