One of the biggest competitive advantages of the Japanese manufacturing sector should be the capability of material development. While manufacturing of many different components and finished goods have been shifted to overseas from Japan for various reasons including lower labor costs, proximity to the markets, etc. and a number of global players have emerged from those emerging countries, Japanese manufacturers have been tackling with the challenges for better life, higher added-value and higher efficiency as well as cleaner environment and many other improvements through the development of new materials. Development of such materials that could make environment more sustainable, make products and devices more energy-efficient and make production costs drastically lower are all essential to us when we live in the world with limited resources. With extremely limited raw materials available domestically, Japanese material manufacturers traditionally have been highly technology oriented and put great efforts in developing new material technologies. YANO has long watched their business growth and progresses over the decades, and therefore, is in a better position to analyze and describe the industry most adequately.
Having been discovered in 1991, CNT has been gradually developed for practical use and is expected to be fully commercialized in near future. Major applications of CNT include electrodes for capacitors, transparent electrodes for electronic devices and components, conductive additives for LIBs (Lithium Ion Batteries) and many others. CNT is said to be stronger than iron, lighter than aluminum and more resistant to high current density than copper. The material even has higher thermal conductivity than copper and is supposed to be highly chemically stable, all of which suggest its extremely high potential as an alternative with better performance to many traditional materials.
CNF or cellulose nanofiber is the material made of core structure of plant cells defibrated to nano level. It has the following characteristics: the weight is 1/5 of that of iron but five times stronger than iron; Specific surface area is large; has dimensional stability due to less thermal deformation; derived from plants; and has gas barrier property (gas impermeable). The volume of the products produced had been limited, most of which were introduced into daily commodities rather than those industries and products that require stable volume of supplies, i.e., automobiles, electronics, chemicals, medical and cosmetic products. In 2017, however, some paper manufacturers and chemical manufacturers started to build factories for mass production and it has been becoming more and more realistic that the CNF will be used in practical applications including those for automobiles, sport shoes, building materials, etc., though there are many technological challenges to overcome for full-fledged penetration.
SiC is one of the materials that have attracted greatest attention for different applications. For instance, calcined SiC fibers are expected to be used for engine parts of airplanes to replace nickel alloy, due to its high thermal tolerance, for lighter weight that should be essential for higher fuel-efficiency. SiC, a compound of silicon and carbon, is already used as a power semiconductor material in different industry fields including automotive (On board charger for EV), ICT (Circuit for power factor improvement for servers), industrial machines (Power source), and many others.