TOKYO, February 25, 2005--Ube Industries,Ltd. has been awarded the Minister of Environment Prize of the Fourth Annual Green Sustainable Chemistry (GSC) Awards by the Green Sustainable Chemistry Network (GSCN), in recognition of the company's major contribution to reduction of environmental impact through its development of the world's first high-strength photocatalytic fiber utilizing surface gradient structures, and of a water decontamination system that makes use of this material.
GSC is a worldwide activity intended to spark greater recognition of social responsibility among people and organizations that work with chemicals or are engaged in the chemical industry and to promote research and development for the environment and human health and safety through innovative chemistry, in order to contribute to the realization of a sustainable society. In Japan, academics, industry groups, and research laboratories working with chemicals (a total of 24 institutions) established GSCN in March 2000 as a voluntary association for the efficient and powerful promotion of GSC activities.
Japan's GSCN established the GSC Awards in 2001. The Minister of Environment Prize is given in recognition of performance that contributes to a general reduction in environmental impact. This year's prizewinner, a high-strength photocatalytic fiber utilizing surface gradient structures, and a water cleaning system making use of this material, won acclaim for its contribution to human environmental health and safety by replacing conventional decontamination systems, which use the toxic chemical chlorine, with a safe water decontamination system.
Photocatalytics were first utilized as long as 30 years ago, and are today widely available in such diverse product sectors at bactericides, deodorizers, and air fresheners. Most such products, however, were coated with powdered photocatalytics (titanium oxide powder) that could not be used in water decontamination systems until such intractable problems as the photocatalytic layers tending to flake off in running water could be solved.
Resolution of this problem would necessitate the development of materials and systems that improve both durability and photocatalytic activity. In response, Toshihiro Ishikawa, manager of the Functional Materials Department at Ube Industries' Ube Research Laboratory, led a team of four researchers in the successful development of the world's first high-strength photocatalytic fiber with a nano-scale surface gradient structure, which makes use of optical irradiation to achieve oxidation and breakdown of all types of organic substances. Moreover, they also developed a highly efficient water decontamination system incorporating this fiber. (A scientific paper regarding this fiber was published in the March 7, 2002, issue of the British science journal Nature.)
This high-efficiency water decontamination system has been demonstrated effective in completely eliminating Legionella and E. Coli bacteria in water tanks, by totally breaking down the bacterial cells and toxins into carbon dioxide and water, and has proven effective in preventing water turbidity.
Ube Industries first marketed this system in May 2002, under the brand name of "Aqua Solutions," and has so far installed 50 systems in hot-spring areas and other bathhouse facilities.
The system has also been demonstrated effective in breaking down highly toxic breakdown-resistant dioxins and other breakdown-resistant bacteria and viruses into carbon dioxide and water. This capacity has value for marine farming operations, pools, cooling towers, and many other sectors where water decontamination is a requirement. In the future, it may also be used in the drinking water sector.