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.

By integrating our wide-ranging proprietary technologies, the Nisshinbo Group is tackling the development of various technologies and products in our three strategic business domains to contribute toward the building of a sustainable society. The Business Development Division is addressing various themes in line with the four axes of hydrogen solutions, mobility solutions, medical and health solutions, and social infrastructure solutions.

Carbon Alloy Catalysts

Contributing to a hydrogen society through carbon alloy catalysts

Because its use generates zero CO2 (greenhouse gas) emissions and it can be used for many purposes including power generation and fuel replacement, hydrogen is currently attracting attention as a clean energy source. Fuel cells, which extract electrical energy using hydrogen as fuel, feature high power generating efficiency and are expected to become the next-generation environment-friendly energy source. The major challenges to full-scale diffusion of fuel cells are the need to achieve higher power density, improved durability performance, and lower costs.
High-performance catalysts are the key to addressing these challenges. We develop carbon alloy catalysts*, which are mainly made of carbon, a material produced in an industrially stable manner, and without the use of costly platinum. Some of our research topics on carbon alloy catalysts, tackled jointly with Gunma University and Chiba University, have been taken up by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO)—specifically, in the form of “Common problem-solving industry-academia-government collaborative research and development project for the dramatic expansion of the use of fuel cells, etc.” .

Carbon alloy catalysts
Carbon alloy catalysts
Carbon alloy catalysts

  *Carbon alloy catalysts: Carbon materials designed to express a catalytic function based on the concept of carbon alloys
Carbon alloys: Multicomponent materials consisting mainly of aggregates of carbon atoms in which physical and chemical interactions occur among structural units
Carbons having different hybrid orbitals are considered different components.
(Source: The Carbon Society of Japan, New Carbon Dictionary)

Gas Sensors

Safer and More Reliable Fuel-Cell Vehicles with New-Style Gas Sensors

Hydrogen gas sensors that can quickly detect any emergency gas leaks are indispensable for supporting the safety and reliability of a hydrogen-powered society. At present sensors that detect hydrogen by chemical reaction are the mainstream, but poor durability due to catalyst deterioration is a problem.
Nisshinbo is developing a new style of gas sensor for installing in fuel-cell vehicles that does not use a catalyst.
Moreover, this new type of sensor can be used to detect not only hydrogen gas but also helium gas. Recently we have begun trial sales of MoLeTELL® for use in leak tests using helium gas. This detector enables the easy identification of leakage spots in automobile parts and electric equipment using helium gas, as well as piping in factories and laboratories.
In the future we are scheduled to increase the range of targeted gases to include, for example, vaporized gasoline and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) and expand our product lineup.

Portable hydrogen leak detector MoLeTELL®
Portable hydrogen leak detector MoLeTELL®(with sniffer type attachment)

Portable helium leak detector MoLeTELL®
Portable helium leak detector MoLeTELL® (with long tube sniffer type attachment)

Marine Biodegradable Materials

Developing Eco-Friendly Resins to Save Our Oceans

In recent years, marine plastics have emerged as a worldwide problem. The G20 summit in 2019 recognized the growing urgency of tackling the issue of marine plastics, particularly microplastics,* minute particles that are difficult to collect and remove from the environment. Strong demands have emerged to cut plastic emissions and to develop alternative eco-friendly materials. We’ve been pursuing research, development, and commercialization efforts involving cellulose and other natural polymers for many years. One such product, FLAVIKAFINE®, is made from alginic acid extracted from seaweed. Already in use in many products, FLAVIKAFINE® has won high praise for its exceptional moisture/water absorption and desorption properties.

In an initiative adopted by New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO)** as the Technology Development Project for Social Implementation of Marine Biodegradable Plastics, we are currently working to develop resin materials that feature a new mechanism of degradation. As an Environment and Energy Company group, we will continue to develop new materials to help address the problem of microplastics.



*Microplastics are small fragments of plastic typically defined as 5 mm or less in length. Their ongoing accumulation in the natural environment without degrading and characteristic of absorbing harmful substances have led to concerns about their impact on ecosystems and human health.

**NEDO: Japan’s national research and development agency that creates innovation by promoting technological development necessary for realization of a sustainable society

Compared to conventional FLAVIKAFINE®, the newly developed product is smoother to the touch and easier to handle when formulating cosmetics. Some of the cosmetics products available today contain plastic fine particles and efforts are currently underway around the world to restrict the use of such particles. Given the urgent need of addressing the issue of microplastics, we invite you to track our progress as we pursue research and development on marine biodegradable materials.

Smart Factories

Feasibility testing of technologies driven by open innovation

The Nisshinbo Group works in the development of smart factory technologies to make effective use of energy, reduce labor requirements, improve operational efficiency through the use of big data, and so on.
To date, we have developed clean energy power generation systems using solar power and fuel cells, power storage systems using secondary batteries, and energy management systems (EMS) that enable efficient operation through the integrated management of equipment and power consumption. These systems have been deployed in our fishing port energy management systems FiEMS).
In addition, we’re currently working to develop smart production processes at plant factories, through feasibility testing, using the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), robots, production process data, and so on.

EMS controller
EMS controller
Autonomous environmental sensor
Autonomous environmental sensor
AI-linked arm robot performing work
AI-linked arm robot performing work

Plant Factories

Stable year-round supply of safe, delicious strawberries

In the face of increasing worldwide population and frequency of extreme weather events, securing safe and reliable food supplies remains a pressing issue for humanity. In response, the Nisshinbo Group is developing smart plant factories based on various technologies. These include fully enclosed environmental controls using environmental sensor networks sorting and packing work using image recognition AI and robots to reduce labor requirements, and utilization of cultivation and inspection data.
In addition, by developing technologies that ensure stable plant cultivation, we’ve succeeded in cultivating strawberries year-round, unaffected by temperature or weather, for the first time in Japan.
We’re committed to contributing to sustainable agriculture by delivering smart cultivation equipment bundled with cultivation expertise.
Strawberries grown in our demonstration facilities are sold to buyers in the confectionery and other industries under the APOLLOBERRY® brand.

Fully enclosed plant factory for year-round harvesting of strawberries
Fully enclosed plant factory for year-round harvesting of strawberries
Automated sorting and packing equipment
Automated sorting and packing equipment
APOLLOBERRY® strawberries grown at Fujieda Plant
APOLLOBERRY® strawberries grown at Fujieda Plant

Nondestructive Sensing

Maintenance and Management of Concrete Structures

The deterioration of many concrete structures, such as bridges, built in the period of Japan’s high economic growth in the 1960s has become a social problem. For example, the life span of bridges normally is said to be about 50 years, yet by 2030 it is expected that more than half of Japan’s bridges will be over 50 years old. From now on, therefore, the efficient testing and diagnosis of such aged structures and their appropriate maintenance will be necessary.

Utilizing ultrasonic technology, the Nisshinbo Group has developed a device that enables the highly precise and three-dimensional measurement of concrete interiors. The use of this device will contribute to the maintenance and management of structures.

Three-dimensional image of concrete interior
Three-dimensional image of concrete interior
Exterior of ultrasonic array sensor
Exterior of ultrasonic array sensor
Multiple ultrasonic probes(Concrete contact area)
Multiple ultrasonic probes
(Concrete contact area)

Millimeter-Wave Communications Devices

For Instant Downloading

As a result of the much improved screen sharpness of mobile terminals, such as smartphones and tablets, and the higher resolution of digital cameras and video cameras, the volume of data being handled by consumers just goes on increasing.
The millimeter-wave communications devices that we are developing are one means of high-speed wireless communication that can be used with smartphones, tablets, and other consumer electronic devices. They will make it possible to send and receive large volumes of digital content without stress, thereby contributing to the realization of pleasant lifestyles.

Next-generation near-field communications
Next-generation near-field communications