Kureha Battery Materials Japan (KBMJ) partners with Kuraray and the INCJ to support global growth of Li-ion battery hard carbon anode technology
|Pattern diagram of Li-ion containment in CARBOTRON P. Click to enlarge.|
Kureha Corporation, Itochu Corporation, Kuraray Co., Ltd. and the Innovation Network Corporation of Japan (INCJ) have concluded an agreement intended to further accelerate the growth of Kureha Battery Materials Japan Co., Ltd. (KBMJ). Under the agreement, Kuraray and the INCJ will acquire new equity stakes in KBMJ through participation in a third-party allocation, with the four companies together investing up to ¥20.0 billion (US$256 million) in KBMJ.
The partnership aims to support KBMJ’s global expansion, with a focus on its CARBOTRON P LIB anode material. CARBOTRON P is an activated anode material which makes use of Kureha’s structure control technology. Although CARBOTRON P is classified as non-graphitizable carbon (called “hard carbon” due to its structure), it differs from other hard carbons because of its specially designed structure which can diffuse Li ions inside of particles.
While soft carbons and graphite have a multiplicity of carbon hexagonal layers, CARBOTRON P has a few carbon hexagonal planes and its diffusion of grains is small; the random layout of carbon hexagonal planes creates a nanoscale sheaf space. The structure of CARBOTRON P is stable and has little change even after repeated input and output of lithium ions.
CARBOTRON P was used in the world’s first commercially available LiB in 1991 and, as large-format batteries have evolved for use in electric cars and require far higher standards, has seen increased demand due to its performance and reliability.
KBMJ was jointly established in 2011 by Kureha (70%) and Itochu (30%) for the manufacture and sale of CARBOTRON P and for the sale of LiB binders; business operations began on 1 October 2011. In December 2011, Kuraray agreed with KBMJ to jointly commercialize Biocarbotron, a hard carbon anode material for LiBs derived from plant material. (CARBOTRON P is derived from petroleum pitch.) The partners expect to establish a mass production and supply system withan annual production capacity of 1,000 tons by 2013.
At that time, Kureha noted that in the annual demand for anode materials is expected to top 100,000 tons in 10 years, compared with the current annual demand of several thousand tons.
The inclusion of the INCJ, which is tasked with nurturing next-generation industries through the promotion of open innovation in Japan, highlights the nature and potential of KBMJ’s solutions, the partners said.
KBMJ plans to finance approximately ¥14.5 billion (US$185 million) over the next two years by issuing ordinary shares to Itochu, Kuraray and the INCJ through a third-party allocation, as well as non-voting preferred shares to the INCJ. It has also been agreed that Kureha will underwrite up to approximately ¥5.5 billion (US$70 million) in ordinary shares in KBMJ. This will provide KBMJ with a combined capital financing of up to approximately ¥20.0 billion. KBMJ will allocate those funds to establish a larger global supply structure for CARBOTRON P and Biocarbotron.