Next Generation Business
Creating solution businesses at the boundaries and in the peripheral areas
Drawing on the knowledge of the Mitsui Chemicals Group, we are taking on the challenge of new possibilities in the New and Next Generation Businesses freshly added to our targeted business domains in the 2025 Long-Term Business Plan. We have already started sowing the seeds to ensure our businesses bear an abundance of fruits in 10 to 20 years’ time.
Fiscal 2025 target
Operating income of ¥250 billion (incl. new businesses in other targeted business domains)
Development of PIEZOLA™, a flexible piezoelectric sensor
Made from organic piezoelectric material, PIEZOLA™ is a flexible and highly sensitive sensor line that can be cut to any desired length and affixed to a surface for measurement. The extremely thin (ø0.4mm) coaxial linear structure of the sensor line can be used for applications previously thought impossible because it can be affixed to uneven surfaces where the use of conventional ceramic sensors was impracticable, in a grid-like fashion at any width on broad surface areas, or wrapped around the surface of cylinder- or cone-shaped objects. Given its high sensitivity and non-pyroelectric properties (impervious to temperature changes), it is particularly well-suited to monitoring the vital signs of the human body. As it can be used on seats or beds to monitor breathing, pulse rate, and other vitals, we are working with many customers to test its application in society, for example, to help monitor residents in nursing care facilities.
In October 2017, we were presented with the Semi-Grand Prix prize for PIEZOLA™ in the Connected Industries category of the CEATEC AWARD 2017.
Development of transparent polyimide varnish—ECRIOS™
ECRIOS™ is a colorless and transparent polyamide acid varnish that exhibits excellent heat resistance, chemical resistance, toughness, and dimensional stability. It has the potential to be used in next-generation electronics; for example, as a heat-resistant base material in place of glass, as a flexible circuit board, or as a binder.
ECRIOS™ was adopted for use in the world’s first ultrathin organic solar battery that boasts exceptional heat resistance and energy conversion efficiency. The battery was recently developed by an international joint research group comprising members from the National Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (also known as Riken), Toray Industries, Inc., the Japan Science and Technology Agency, and other organizations.
ECRIOS™ was utilized in the substrate layer of the solar battery and significantly contributed to making the battery ultrathin (only 3µm) and heat resistant by improving surface flatness and thermal stability. Given that the solar battery is flexible and highly resistant to heat, it can be fastened to fabrics with an iron without impacting on the fabric’s freedom of design and elasticity. The research group’s use of ECRIOS™ should serve as a springboard from which we can expand its use to various applications outside of next-generation electronics.
Diagnostics business for solar power generation
We are able to diagnose the overall condition of a solar power generation plant. We do this by accurately forecasting solar panel service life with technology that can predict deterioration in solar panel encapsulants, a product manufactured and sold by Mitsui Chemicals Tohcello, Inc. for more than 25 years. We also draw on our experience in developing and operating the Tahara Solar-Wind™ power generation facility, as well as data accumulated at the prototype power plants located in the Mobara Branch Factory and Sodegaura Center. In recent years, we have worked together with investment funds to share data on the volume of power generated at plants nationwide, which have helped us make even more accurate forecasts. In addition, we can offer our services to solar power generation plants that have installed increasingly popular storage battery facilities and predict changes in electricity sales volume that may result from restricted output. Moreover, in the fast-growing Indian market, we have opened a solar panel testing and certification lab and are currently making preparations to begin accepting BIS certification* testing from December 2019.
*BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards) certification is comparable to Japan’s JIS certification but obtainable only through accredited organizations in India.
Business rollout in India
Rapid identification system for sepsis-causing bacteria
Sepsis is a bacterial infection with a high mortality rate. Every year, 20–30 million people around the world develop sepsis, which kills about 10 million. More than one hundred types of bacteria can cause sepsis, therefore identifying which one has caused the infection as quickly as possible can significantly increase the survival rate. To address this issue, together with Toyama University we jointly developed a world-first revolutionary system capable of identifying the bacteria causing sepsis within about five hours after taking a blood sample—a process that currently takes around two to three days. We aim to file a new drug application in Japan in 2019 while conducting trials with multiple medical institutions, as well as launch the system in overseas markets.
Rapid bacteriological identification system
*1Hokkaido Mitsui Chemicals, Inc.
*2Experienced genetic testers using three samples
Joint research project adopted into AMED’s ACT-M
In September 2018, the joint research project between Mitsui Chemicals and Toyama University was adopted into the basic scheme of the Acceleration Transformative Research for Medical Innovation (ACT-M) program of the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED). The program aims to assist collaborative R&D between industry and academia. The research project was rated very highly after being implemented under AMED’s set-up scheme (ACT-MS) of the same project between August 2016 and March 2018.
Given these developments, we continue to engage in the research. Our main subject of research is the quantitative determination of the bacterial count in blood, which through a process of clinical research, has the potential to be useful in medical treatment in the future.
TOPICS Jointly developed a model eyeball for glaucoma surgery training
In a joint research project* with Nagoya University and the University of Tokyo, we developed a model eyeball for glaucoma surgery training that can be mounted in a humanoid eye surgery simulator. Glaucoma surgery usually involves making a thin cut in the sclera (the white part of the eye) to release intraocular pressure before it is closed up again. However, the lack of good enough model eyeballs to practice on has meant physicians have been unable to fully acquire the basic skills and engage in preoperative training. In this research project, by creating the structure of the sclera required for glaucoma surgery, we successfully developed a model eyeball with a hollow structure on which incisions and suturing can be performed. This model has enabled eye surgeons to practice their glaucoma surgery technique, which was not possible in the past.
*This research project was undertaken as part of the ImPACT program spearheaded by the Council for Science, Technology and Innovation in Japan’s Cabinet Office.