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Technological Innovations in Devices Helping to Accelerate Us Toward a Decarbonized Society

Increasing Adoption of Power Storage Devices in Electric Vehicles, Homes, and Public Buildings

As governments around the world continue to promote initiatives and institutional frameworks aimed at achieving a decarbonized society, such as carbon neutrality, the industrial world is accelerating technological innovation in devices that will help save energy and improve efficiency in industrial products and systems. In this article, we take a look at device trends in various industries and sectors.

Firstly, in the automotive sector, competition to move away from gasoline as a fuel is intensifying, as evidenced in the shift to electric vehicles (EVs), and it seems that electronic devices will be the key to energy conservation. In addition to improving their energy-saving capabilities, devices for EVs need to be smaller and have fewer parts in order to be high-performance, and an increasing number of companies from different sectors with advanced technical ability in electronic device manufacturing are entering the market.

Power storage devices found in EVs are also being increasingly used in the construction sector. Vehicle to Home (V2H), a means of connecting homes and other facilities to EVs and storing power generated by solar panels in the power storage devices of EVs, has been garnering attention for several years now as an efficient means of using renewable energy. The importance of such power storage devices will continue to grow, as the Japanese government announced in 2021 a policy of installing solar power generation equipment whenever the national or local government builds a new public building, to promote decarbonization efforts.

It is also expected that Li-ion batteries (LiB) will be adapted for home use, sacrificing some energy density to increase durability, thereby extending their life and reducing the cost. Consequently, according to an investigation by Fuji Keizai, the global market for LiBs used in power storage systems and small-scale consumer products such as EVs and devices is expected to double to 9.5203 trillion yen in 2024, compared with an estimated 4.7410 trillion yen in 2020.

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Innovation Brought on by Technological Innovations in Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) and Gallium Nitride (GaN)

MEMS (Micro Electro Mechanical Systems)

People are also taking notice of technological innovations in MEMS. MEMS are devices in which micron-level structures and electrical and electronic circuits are formed on silicon wafers or other materials using microfabrication techniques, enabling the creation of microminiature sensors and actuators. Research and development into MEMS as extremely miniature, high-precision, and low-energy devices is being carried out for sectors as diverse as telecommunications, automobiles, and robotics.

According to French research agency Yole Développement, the global MEMS market was sluggish in 2019–2020 due to the impact of COVID-19, but grew 11% to 13.4 billion USD in 2021, and is projected to increase to 18.2 billion USD by 2026.

Gallium Nitride (GaN)

As we demand ever more technologically advanced devices, so too is demand placed on the chemical industry to create new materials that will be the breakthrough to developing these new technologies. While there are high hopes for the development of new materials for use in future power storage devices such as LiBs, solid-state batteries, solar cells, and fuel cells, gallium nitride (GaN), tipped to become the next-generation semiconductor material, seems promising. GaN is already known as being indispensable for the development and manufacture of blue LEDs, but social implementation is expanding beyond just LED lighting.

In 2019, Nagoya University's Center for Integrated Research of Future Electronics (CIRFE) announced their "All GaN Vehicle," an EV that features an onboard traction inverter that utilizes GaN. The center's EV exhibits a 65% reduction in power dissipation compared with conventional power semiconductors. This prevention of unnecessary power loss has enabled EVs to be even more energy-efficient. CIRFE is currently focusing on GaN research with the aim of developing technologies that will contribute to carbon neutrality, through three projects that are funded by the Cabinet Office, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, and the Ministry of the Environment.

These technological innovations in devices hold the key to achieving a decarbonized society. Not only will they have a great impact on the industrial world, they are also gradually beginning to permeate our daily lives. While these technological innovations continue to be made, a further key to achieving a decarbonized society lies in users changing their own attitudes and behaviors.

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