R&D Activities

The Center undertakes development from a variety of perspectives of products and technologies that will contribute to the creation of a sustainable society.

The Nisshinbo Group uses the technologies that it has accumulated to develop products and technologies in four strategic business segments that will contribute to the creation of a sustainable society. The Center is researching a diverse range of topics centered on the environment and energy with a focus on promoting the use of renewable energy and research on achieving carbon neutrality.

Research on a wide variety of topics centered around energy and the environment

Carbon alloy catalysts

Stable and inexpensive catalyst

The biggest issue regarding the widespread use of fuel cells is reducing costs. The key to cutting costs is development new catalysts.
A fuel cell is a mechanism that generates electricity from a chemical reaction with hydrogen, and electrodes with catalytic functions are used to encourage the chemical reaction. The raw material for the electrodes is expensive and rare platinum, and this is one of the reasons that fuel cells are costly.
The carbon alloy catalyst that we are developing in collaboration with Professor Ozaki of Gunma University is made from carbon, which is suitable for stable industrial production. We believe that replacing expensive platinum catalyst with a carbon alloy catalyst will contribute significantly to reducing the cost of fuel cells.
The carbon alloy catalyst has been incorporated by Ballard Power Systems Inc.* (Ballard) in a fuel cell stack product.
In addition to accumulating achievements in the field of portable fuel cells, Nisshinbo Group is developing carbon alloy catalyst applications aimed at wider market, and intends to continue contributing to the realization of a hydrogen-powered society through the expanded adoption of PEFCs.
* Ballard (listed on NASDAQ)
Headquarters: Burnaby, British Colombia, Canada

Carbon alloy catalysts
Carbon alloy catalysts
Carbon alloy catalysts
Ballard fuel cell stack, with Carbon alloy catalysts

Functional polymer particles

Particles with excellent light diffusion

For the past several years, polymer particles have been used as the primary raw material for a variety of applications in basic industries. The shapes of the particles are generally a sphere. The Nisshinbo Group is conducting research on producing new characteristics by changing the shapes to non-spherical such as ellipses or rods.
An elliptical polymer particle, for example, exhibits excellent light dispersion characteristics, and by adjusting the amounts of dopants and placement and by combining the particles with other particles, specific optical characteristics can be produced. In addition, unique current characteristics can be produced by adjusting the sizes and aspect ratios (long side to short side) of the particles.
We believe that using these characteristics will contribute greatly to the development of materials with new characteristics and enhancing the potential of existing materials.

spherical and non-spherical polymer particles
* Nisshinbo's elliptical particles are characterized by aspect ratios of 3 or greater

Ionic liquids

Safe and green liquid salt

Ionic liquids refer to salts that are liquid at room temperature. Ionic liquids are overturning the conventional wisdom that salts are liquid only at high temperatures. By using these liquids as functional materials, a variety of characteristics can be achieved.

Main features of ionic liquids

  • New catalysts made only of ions
  • High ion conductivity
  • High stability (non-volatile, non-flammable)
  • High decomposition temperature
  • Wide liquid temperature range
  • High material solvent power
Solid salt and Ionic liquid
Solid salt (left)
Ionic liquid (right)

Nisshinbo developed an ionic liquid with cations that have the following unique structure and has launched it commercially. We are developing applications with a focus on the electrolyte field to make use of the electrochemical stability and are conducting research on ionic liquids with new characteristics.

Chemical Structure of Ionic Liquid
Chemical Structure of Ionic Liquid

Plant factories

Year-long supply of delicious strawberries

In conjunction with global climate change and a rising population, securing adequate food supplies is becoming an increasingly serious issue for humankind. To ensure stable supplies of safe and secure foods, Nisshinbo is developing technologies for cultivating plants in fully-sealed factories. The result of controlling temperature weather in plant factories with safe manmade light and has been year-round cultivation of delicious strawberries, a crop that normally fruits only in the spring. This is a first in Japan. Production facilities were installed at the Tokushima Plant in FY 2011 and the Fujieda Plant in FY 2013, and strawberries are being cultivated and sold in the Apollo Berry brand name.

Fully-controlled plant factory
Fully-controlled plant factory with planted seedlings at the Fujieda Plant.
Apollo Berry strawberries
Apollo Berry strawberries cultivated on a test line at the Fujieda Plant.

Smart factories

Demonstration Trials that Integrate Nisshinbo Group Environmental and Energy Technologies

The introduction of renewable energy and smart technologies for the integrated management of energy is an urgent task from the perspective of the effective use of energy.
In response to this social need, the Nisshinbo Group is conducting demonstration trials of electric generating systems that use solar power, fuel cells, and other forms of clean energy, storage systems that use rechargeable batteries, and energy management systems (EMS) that monitor and control electric power usage.
EMS is a core technology for smart systems, and demand for EMS is expected to grow in the future.

Exterior view of a smart factory
Exterior view of a smart factory
View of an EMS
View of an EMS
Visualization of the electric power needed
A monitor (left side) make it possible to visualize the electric power generation and consumption

Millimeter-wave communications devices

Enables instant download.

In conjunction with an accelerating shift towards higher resolutions on mobile terminals such as smart phones and tablets as well as higher resolution digital cameras and video cameras, the volume of data handled by consumers is increasing even further.
The millimeter wave communications devices under development are one means of high-speed wireless communications that can be used with smart phones, tablets, and other consumer electronics devices. They make it possible to send and receive large volumes of digital content stress free and will contribute to more convenient lifestyles.

Next generation near field communication
Next generation near field communication