To strengthen and expand the functional materials business and create next-generation businesses, we promote open innovation that actively leverages external knowledge.
At the Atsugi Research Center of Solar Frontier K.K., we are engaged in leading-edge research and development related to CIS solar cells, aiming to improve energy conversion efficiency at both the research and commercial production levels, while striving to develop new applications and create advanced next-generation products with the potential to cultivate new markets.
In January 2019, a joint-research project with the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) led to the achievement of a world record energy conversion efficiency of 23.35% for a single cell (about 1 cm2) of the cadmium-free CIS solar cell (Cd-Free CIS solar cell). This record is approximately 0.4 percentage points higher than the previous record of 22.9% (achieved by our company in November 2017) for cadmium-containing CIS solar cells, and represents the highest conversion efficiency in the world for all CIS solar cells. By applying basic technologies, we are working to lower costs by increasing the output of panels and to deliver environmentally friendly and economical products to customers.
In August 2020, two of our project proposals were taken up by the NEDO as joint-research projects under its programs titled “Technological Development for Promoting Solar Power Generation and Making It a Major Power Source” and “Technological Development for Creating New Markets for Solar Power Generation.” The themes of these projects, respectively, are the “Development of ultra-lightweight film modules (for installation on rooftops with limitations on loading weight)” and the “Research and development of solar cells for vehicles.” The terms of both span the five-year period from FY2020 to FY2024. Through the two projects, we will further promote the development of new technologies to broaden the range of terrains in which solar panels can be installed.
In addition, these projects will pursue their respective themes via the application of CIS solar cells (solar cells made using a compound of copper, indium and selenium) manufactured and marketed by Solar Frontier K.K., a wholly owned subsidiary of our company.
On April 1, 2020, our company and the Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) co-founded Idemitsu Kosan Collaborative Research Cluster for Advanced Materials on the premises of Tokyo Tech’s Suzukakedai campus. Since the beginning of the 2000s, our company and Tokyo Tech have been engaged in joint research in polymer materials and other fields encompassing a range of technologies and have achieved outstanding results, including the development of new fiber and film materials. The newly established research base is expected to promote large-scale and comprehensive R&D that involves ongoing interorganizational collaboration and transcends the traditional framework of joint research for individual projects. In this way, we will help develop next-generation materials while nurturing human resources.
While our company boasts strengths in functional materials (lubricants, advanced materials & performance chemicals, electronic materials, agri-bio, and others) and a track record in marketing them in wide-ranging fields, Tokyo Tech possesses a breadth of sophisticated academic expertise with regard to substances and materials and is equipped with leading-edge scientific and engineering technologies. Bringing together these resources, our company and Tokyo Tech will take on the ongoing challenge of creating new value.
Although the jellyfish displayed at aquariums are popular among onlookers due to their beautiful and mysterious outward appearance, their swarms sometimes negatively impact commercial fishing and other business activities undertaken in coastal areas. Moreover, disposing of jellyfish caught in nets results in significant costs. Because of this, there is a growing call to find ways to use jellyfish as a resource. Jellyfish Research Laboratories, Inc. (Kanagawa Prefecture), an our group company, has invented a technology to utilize useful ingredients extracted from jellyfish. Collagen derived from jellyfish has been confirmed to be effective in promoting the regeneration of epidermis which is considered to be difficult to regenerate, and is expected to be used in the fields of regenerative medicine and beauty treatment. Mucin derived from jellyfish is also expected to have potential as a treatment for knee osteoarthritis.
Taking advantage of the features of jellyfish, we will blaze a new trail in the life science field and help people around the world enhance their quality of life. In addition, the initiatives discussed above were covered by Circular Yokohama, an online media outlet focused on drawing public attention to local businesses engaged in innovative endeavors aimed at realizing a circular economy.