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Hitachi Group offers a wide-range of environmentally conscious products and services. But it does not stop there. It also shows how much it cares for the earth's environment by producing the materials essential for manufacturing its products.
High functional materials — the key to our product manufacturing — have the power that dramatically changes products. And the high functional materials manufactured by the Hitachi Group maximize the potential of the raw materials from which they are made and support product manufacturing that aims for even higher quality and performance.
Products that support an eco lifestyle are spreading and gaining market share. They include green energy products such as solar and wind power generators, LED lighting that saves energy and lasts much longer, heat pumps that use heat from the air to boil water, and hybrid/electric vehicles that cut CO2 emissions. You will find the Hitachi Group's high functional materials supporting these products in many different materials fields.
In fact, we deal in a countless variety of high functional materials, but they are not readily apparent in everyday life.
Our daily lives are gradually shifting toward a more environmentally conscious lifestyle as we head into the future.
For instance, we are no longer limited to simply using electricity. People can now generate electricity at home and use it in a non-wasteful manner.
We would like to use a typical example of a next-generation solar energy system to introduce a number of Hitachi's high functional materials that support our daily lives.
The solar power systems that are making their way into our lives, including our homes, can generate electricity using energy from the sun, and solar cell modules are an essential part of these systems.
Solar cell modules are an array of thin silicon panels packaged together in modular form.
One of the materials used therein is NoWarp™ PV WIRE for solar cell use. Simply put, this wire is for conducting solar-generated electricity at a high efficiency.
Amid the continuing reduction in cell thickness and weight, Hitachi developed flexible PV wire that is compatible with thin cells. By lowering the wire's thermal contraction, we were able to dramatically lower the warping that occurs when making connections (assuming a warping value of 100 for conventional products, a reduction to 70 for our product*2), and thereby prevent the deformation and damage of thin cells. Making cells thinner lowers the amount of silicon, ensuring that existing resources are used in an effective manner.
Hitachi also offers an environmentally conscious lead-free type of PV wire (RoHS compliant).
Electricity generated using solar energy cannot be directly used in the home. Since it is direct current (DC) when first generated by solar cells, it must be converted to alternating current (AC) that can be used in the home. That is the job of a device known as a power conditioner.
Japanese homes generally use electricity rated at 100 V AC. A power conditioner converts the electricity generated by solar cells from DC to AC and then further adjusts its voltage, current, and frequency so that it can be used in the home.
The part of the power conditioner that adjusts voltage (step-up/down circuit) and the part that converts current from DC to AC (output smoothing circuit) employ a high functional material from Hitachi. The material in question is amorphous alloy, which is known for its excellent magnetic properties.
Amorphous alloy is used in coil cores, but the greatest merit in using it is its ability to reduce energy loss.
The use of amorphous alloy has been shown to reduce energy loss some 70% compared with Cold-rolled grain-oriented electrical steel, thereby contributing to a major saving of energy.
Hybrid and electric vehicles are attracting attention as next-generation vehicles for reducing CO2 emissions. Batteries that store the electricity they use are what make them possible. Among the various types of batteries, hopes are high for the lithium-ion variety due to their potential for smaller size, lighter weight, and longer life.
Lithium-ion batteries are comprised of cathode material, anode material, and a separator (insulator) between them. Charging and discharging is made possible by the movement of ions between the cathode and anode electrodes. Since electricity is produced using the electric potential difference between the cathode and anode electrodes, the material used to make these electrodes is a major design point.
High performance artificial graphite is used for the anode material in the lithium-ion batteries offered by Hitachi. Artificial graphite is characterized by low electrical resistance, and at high purity, a high energy density. It has a large number of micropores within globular particles, which helps lithum ions to move smoothly, and thereby enables us to build lithium-ion batteries that have a large capacity and can charge rapidly.
Hitachi is carrying out fine-tuned development projects for a wide range of market needs, including anode material that has high output and excellent service life for use with hybrid/electric vehicles and anode material that is compact, lightweight, and long-lasting for use with PCs/mobile phones. In this manner we are contributing to the creation of lithium-ion batteries with outstanding performance.
The Hitachi Group is promoting its Social Innovation Business, which fuses social infrastructure with information technology. The high functional materials that Hitachi is rolling out globally and on a broad basis are playing a crucial role in supporting this business.
The Hitachi Group will continue to offer high functional materials in wide range of fields, from social infrastructure, including electrical power and next-generation energies, industry, urban development, and telecommunications, to the electronic products that are an intimate part of our lives.
This is the policy of the Hitachi Group, and we will help build a sustainable society by creating high functional materials that support finished products that are considerate of the environment.