Editorial Feature

Nanotechnology in Japan: Market Report

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Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it covers a total area of 377,944 km2 and has a population of 126.8m as of 2017.

Japan is regarded as a leading nation in technology and biomedical research, and machinery and its GDP was 4.872 trillion USD in 2017. Japan has a well-developed industrial sector, with some of the most technologically advanced producers of textiles, motor vehicles, processed foods, machine tools, ships, steel and non-ferrous metals, electronics, chemical substances and, machine tools.

Japan’s key exports include motor vehicles, chemicals, electrical machinery, electronics and, transportation equipment. The chief imports include chemicals, raw materials for its industries, machinery and equipment, textiles, fossil fuels and, foodstuffs,especially beef.

Nanotechnology Organizations

The key nanotechnology-related organizations in Japan are:

  • Super Growth CNT - A nanotube research center that conducts research on new nanomaterials, nano devices, their applications and architectural elements. Some of the facilities provided by this center are synthesis room; device process clean room; chemical process room; synthesis room for mass production; physical-characterization room and laser lithography.
     
  • National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) - promotes nanotechnology-based research through the following research groups:
     
    • Nanophotonics Group - engaged in spectroscopy and theoretical analysis of nanostructured materials fabricated by its original and sophisticated lithography and self-assembly technologies. It aims to create optical functions and devices based on new nanophotonics concepts.
       
    • Quantum Dot Research Center - deals with research on semiconductor nano structures and aims to develop basic nanotechnologies by advancing and fusing nano fabrication technologies which NIMS has been cultivating. This research center also focuses on developing theoretical analysis and evaluating techniques for nano structures such as micro laser spectroscopy and characterization under a high magnetic field. The center supports research activities in nano photonics, organic nano wires, photonic crystals and, plasmonics.
       
  • National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) - a public research institution largely funded by the government. It also includes the Nanotube Research Center, which aims to develop nanotube materials and enhance the utilization of organic and carbon nanotubes. This center also contributes to the international standardization of nanotube materials.

Nanotechnology Companies

The major nanotechnology-related companies in Japan are listed below along with a brief introduction to each:

  • Asahi Glass - carries the slogan: ‘Look Beyond’ and is a global materials and components supplier based on their core technologies in glass, fluorine chemistry and, related fields. The AGC Group's TCO films are characterized by high conductivity with low electrical resistance, but also scatter light efficiently. Their Type HU TCO film features improved light scattering properties to near infrared, which has longer wavelengths as a result of their original nano-scale (one-billionth of a meter) film-forming technology.
    By generating smaller concavo-convex parts onto the existing surfaces, AGC has made it possible for the film to reflect sunlight in a more complex manner. This increases the effect of confining light with longer wavelengths, and as a result, more light can be supplied to the photovoltaic layer to improve the power generation efficiency. AGC Group also possesses a technology to coat TCO films onto float glass at the same time that the glass is produced.

  • Fujifilm - works in many areas; from digital cameras to motion picture film, and computer media to medical imaging. They work to bring you better products, solve difficult problems and protect our planet's environment. The company has developed a technology that precisely controls the light-sensitive structure of the silver-halide grains down to the nanoscale, resulting in extremely fine grains. Photons generated by exposure to light are concentrated in the photosensitive nucleus via electron accumulators. The grains are designed with a precise electron accumulator structure that efficiently concentrates photons to form the latent image. The grain configuration is precisely engineered to a thickness that minimizes reflections, effectively limiting light scatter and boosting sharpness.
  • Hitachi High-Technologies - manufacture a range of analytical instruments including (S)TEM (Transmission Electron Microscope), FIB (Focused Ion Beam System), FE-SEM (Field Emission Scanning Electron Microscope), SEM (Scanning Electron Microscope) and Nano-Probing Systems.

  • Hosokawa Micron Group - a world leader in providing process solutions in the fields of powder and particle processing technology, blown film technology, and, confectionery technology. Hosokawa Micron Group maintains facilities for research, engineering, manufacturing and service throughout Asia, Oceania, the Americas and Europe. The company is advancing 100 years of powder and particle technology experience and market leadership in the future with the application, development and commercialization of ultra-fine composite particles in the rapidly expanding field of Nano Particle Technology.

  • JEOL - a leading global supplier of scientific instruments used for research and development in the fields of nanotechnology, life sciences, optical communication, forensics, and, biotechnology. JEOL uses its unique technologies, products, services and knowledge to help its customers make significant breakthroughs in product development and scientific research.

  • JFE Steel - This company developed two new high strength hot-rolled steel sheets which provide excellent performance in automobile suspension and chassis parts. This includes “NANOHITEN,” a precipitation-hardened high strength hot-rolled steel sheet. The precipitates are refined to several nanometers, which gives the material an excellent balance of elongation and a hole-expansion ratio. BHT steel sheet is a strain-aging type of high strength hot-rolled steel sheet which features low strength and high formability during forming and a large increase in tensile strength after paint baking. This results in a higher fatigue limit and improved crashworthiness.

  • Nano Control Co., Ltd - This company offers nanometer range Nanopositioning and Piezo Positioning systems for high precision work in semiconductor, metrology, optical, and laser technology. Complete positioning systems are configured specifically for applications and feature travel ranges from 6 to 500 microns. They feature the ability to make moves in 6 to 100 micron ranges with better than 5nm repeatability.

  • Nano-Optonics Energy - a Japan-developed, world-first nanotechnology, environment, energy research and development company. They contribute to society through research and development of the most advanced technology. They prioritize the importance of basic research and basic education to make links with universities to form the foundation of its business. They have brought two technologies to the market – a super high precision, high speed grinding technology and a high-temperature superconducting power transmission and battery technology.

  • NanoCarrier - prioritizes the improvement of human health and medical progress by producing new drugs which utilize nanotechnology (micellar nanoparticles) to increase patients’ quality of life. NanoCarrier’s vision is to be an innovative and leading biotech company, unrivaled in the cancer field.
  • Nanotex Corporation - founded by Photonics Corporation, the company manufactures ATOPS, which are a non-contact optical fiber displacement sensor with nanometer resolution and wide bandwidth. They also manufacture nanosensors that realizes angstrom-resolution with breakthrough AC modulation & synchronous demodulation technology removing destabilizing factors.

Nanotechnology Research and Education

Some of the leading academic institutes in Japan offer courses and research programs in nanoscience and nanotechnology are listed below:

  • University of Tokyo – This University promotes the significance of nanotechnology through The Graduate School of Engineering, which offers Mechanical Engineering and Engineering Synthesis. Advanced courses in mechanical and biomechanical engineering, focusing on the environment, energy and micro-nano scales,and Precision Engineering, Nano/Micro Engineering and Digital Engineering Courses are available to provide research subjects and curricula related to Nano Technology, Production Engineering, Machine Design, Medical Engineering, Bio Technology, and Mechatronics; and Applied Physics, which provides research on nanotechnology.
     
  • OHTSU Research Group - conducts research based on nanophotonics. The OHTSU lab provides cutting-edge facilities to facilitate research in nanotechnology, optical systems, micro-machining, electronic engineering, chemistry and, physics.
     
  • Tokyo City University - promotes the study of nanotechnology through the following department:
    • Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering - offers courses on advanced nanotechnology devices and application of nanotechnologies.
       
  • Tsukuba Innovation Arena - conducts nanotech-based research in nanomaterial safety, carbon nanotubes, nano-green, N- MEMS, power electronics and nanoelectronics.
     
  • Tokyo Tech and Tsinghua University - offers a Joint Graduate School Program of a Master and Doctoral course on nanotechnology.
     
  • Tokyo Institute of Technology - offers a course on nanoscience and nanotechnology and also provides research opportunities through below mentioned research center:
    • Quantum Nanoelectronics Research Center (QNERC) - conducts research to support the goals of Japan's national strategic 'nanotechnology project' as well as supporting Tokyo Institute of Technology staff involved in academic, industrial and international collaborative research.
       
  • Tokyo University of Science - promotes the study of nanotechnology through the Research Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology. This is involved in a number of departments that focus on the study and creation of nanomaterials and the development of manufacturing processes for ferroelectric nanodevices, electronic nanodevices, optical nanodevices and magnetic nanodevices. Riken - Japan's largest comprehensive research institution which has a number of nanotechnology-related research centers and teams including Quantum Nano-Scale Magnetism, Green Nanocatalysis and Near-field NanoPhotonics Research Teams.

Recent Developments

In October 2015, the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs collaborated with the University of Tokyo to organize the United Nations/Japan Nano-Satellite Symposium in Nagoya, Japan. This symposium allowed individuals to become involved in micro- and nano-satellite missions to learn more about the latest technological developments, applications and relevant legal and regulatory issues; as well as to discuss the strategies for capacity building in the space technology development.

The Nanofibers Symposium took place in June 2012 in Tokyo. This event also included Elmarco's conference, Nanofibers for the 3rd Millennium. The event featured new scientific findings and generations of value-added innovations in the field of new energy as well as environmental technologies and life sciences.

A researcher from the Utsunomiya University developed a new water treatment technique by combining nanotechnology and biotechnology.

Japanese and Canadian researchers have developed an iron nanocatalyst that promises to drastically increase hydrogenation efficiency and is suited to a range of different chemical processes. This nanotechnology offers a cheaper and greener alternative to metal-based catalysts.

Researchers at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency and NIMS have used a spin-polarized metastable helium beam to detect the electronic spin state of graphene contacted to a magnetic metal electrode. This work is relevant to next generation spintronics.

Sumitomo has developed a purified version of natural rubber which offers superior performance and efficiency. It will be used in selected tire lines along with their 4D Nano Design technology which helps control the structure of the rubber at the nanoscale.

With these innovative discoveries and wide varieties of nanotech-based courses and research activities, Japan stands out as a dominant player in the field of technology. In the coming years, Japan will become a technology hub - buzzing with a variety of nanotechnology-based products with multi-application characteristics.

The Japanese economy has struggled to grow and has been relatively stagnant over the last two decades. That said, it remains the third largest economy behind the USA and China in terms of GDP. An aging population, high national debt and the pressures of recent natural disasters indicate growth in the short term is unlikely.

Japan ranks well in terms of spending on R&D, and is generally above OECD and EU averages, although this has plateaued in times when business expenditure has decreased.

A new growth strategy was implemented in 2010 that seeks to take GERD to 4% by 2020, with green innovation and life innovation identified as strategic priorities.

Japan is one of the most developed nations in the world. They have an established research infrastructure and are able to accelerate their nanotechnology activities when the economic climate improves and Japan's large high tech corporates increase their expenditure on R&D. The nation’s commitment to GERD growth also positions the sector well for future growth and development with nanotechnology offering a potential for strategic priority areas.

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