The Chemical Daily recently conducted a round of interviews with the heads of R&D divisions of major Japanese chemical companies. For this installment, we talked with Masamichi Mizukami, representative director and senior managing executive officer of Mitsubishi Gas Chemical Co. Inc. (TYO:4182; MGC).
Mizukami started off by noting that as part of its latest medium-term management plan, MGC plans to spend 66 billion yen ($591.1 million) on R&D over fiscal 2018–2020. He then moved to describe efforts in a number of the company’s existing businesses.
One example here was methanol, where Mizukami said that MGC is in the middle of developing a new manufacturing process. He also noted that the company is establishing technologies to improve its productivity for meta-xylenediamine – which is meeting with strong demand – and intends to apply these to both existing facilities as well as planned new facilities.
Elsewhere, Mizukami said, MGC is conducting development starting from the monomers that serve as raw materials for polycarbonate (PC) produced through the melting method, which helps to reduce environmental burdens. He noted that controlling both this cost-competitive melting method for PC production as well as the interface method – which allows for high-transparency products – gives the company’s management more options in the field.
These options, Mizukami explained, include the possibility of moving to in-house production for the raw materials of special PC grades that respond to customer needs brought about by the trend toward thinner camera lenses. MGC’s efforts here are focused on maintaining low birefringence while also allowing for more variations with different refractive indexes, he said.
Mizukami said that with companies having now announced launches for foldable smartphones, MGC is moving forward with customer evaluations for heat-resistant transparent polyimide in applications such as touch screens. Working in response to estimates that the market for such phones is expected to get up to full speed in 2020, MGC is setting up a mass production system for its materials here, with Mizukami noting that the plan is to procure varnish in-house while cooperating with external players for film.
Commenting then on materials for semiconductor package substrates, Mizukami said that MGC is strengthening its efforts in the high-frequency segment of the market, which is set to benefit from the predicted spread of 5G technologies. MGC’s bismaleimide–triazine (BT) resins already have a high market share when it comes to use in small substrates, he noted. But in aiming to also get into the market for larger substrates used in infrastructure applications, the company is now working to reduce the costs of its existing BT resins and develop new ones, Mizukami said.
On the topic of new businesses, Mizukami said that MGC is beginning sales of resin tubes with high oxygen barrier characteristics, targeting these toward use in injections. For all-solid-state batteries, he noted that the company has high hopes going forward for solid electrolytes. And this autumn, he said, is bringing the completion of an indoor farm with entirely artificial lighting, representing a first step for MGC’s agricultural business.