TOKYO, January 26, 2011 _ Ube Industries, Ltd. today announced that it is taking steps to expand the sales and R&D activites for battery materials by the Ube Group in and outside of Japan. Ube has positioned the battery materials segment as a strategic growth business, and anticipates a significant increase in future demand for lithium-ion batteries used in automotive and industrial applications including for hybrid and electric vehicles. The details of the plans are described below.
Effective February 1, 2011, Ube will launch a Specialty Battery Materials Business Unit within the Specialty Chemicals & Products Company. The new Business Unit integrates both business segments of electrolytes and separators for lithium-ion batteries, and will serve as the central business unit for Ube's battery materials business. The new Business Unit will be headed by Masahiko Katsuta, currently leading the High Purity Chemicals Business Unit.
Effective February 1, 2011, Ube will launch the Advanced Energy Materials Research and Development Center, in order to integrate all development for lithium-ion battery electrolytes and separators.
The new development center will be located in Ube City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. It will oversee the development of materials for lithium-ion batteries as well as next-generation batteries, solar cells and fuel cells, and pursue development of energy materials for the entire Ube Group.
The Advanced Energy Materials Research and Development Center will integrate development work for electrolytes and separators that are currently spread over different development centers in Ube, The new Center will provide an integrated framework for developing and evaluating materials with new functionalities, and pursue market development. This will enable Ube to provide better solutions that precisely accommodate the needs of its customers and markets.
Initially, the new center will concentrate on developing materials for lithium-ion batteries. Resources will also be assigned to develop materials for new energy generation, -transport and - storage devices.
It will also back up Ube's global development efforts in the field of battery materials in Europe. Ube is taking a proactive stance on considering future alliances, and expects the R&D Center to provide support for development that will take place under technology tie-ups and joint ventures.
The new Center will support the development of technologies and applications for other Ube products in the field of battery and energy materials. These products include polyimides, nylons and fine chemicals.
Ube has positioned battery materials as one of its four highest priority business segments, together with pharmaceuticals, fine chemicals, and products in the polyimide chain. Ube will strengthen the battery materials segment by expanding the business scope to include energy materials, in order to pursue development that anticipates technological advances needed by society.
The new R&D Center will be headed by Dr. Koji Abe, currently leading the Specialty Products Business Unit I.
Ube will prepare a framework to engage in development of electrolytes for large lithium-ion batteries at Ube Chemical Europe S.A. (CEO: Ricardo Lopez), its Group manufacturing subsidiary in Europe. The move is in response to increasing demand for lithium-ion battery markets in Europe and North America.
Key equipment will be installed at Ube Chemical Europe's existing R&D centre. It will include various analysis and small-lot electrolyte mixing equipments and will be put into operation starting from April 2011. The new framework will enable Ube to rapidly assess and provide sample electrolytes for customers in Europe and North America.
Through its two development centers in Japan and Europe, Ube will be able to supply functional electrolytes to automakers and battery manufacturers worldwide.