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 trends in power storage devices, Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) and Gallium Nitride (GaN) semiconductors that accelerate various industries and sectors towards decarbonization.
The competition to move away from gasoline as a fuel is intensifying in the automotive sector. As evidenced by the shift to electric vehicles (EVs), electronic devices will be the key to energy conservation. In addition to improving their energy-saving capabilities, electronic devices for EVs need to be smaller and have fewer parts in order to offer high performance. An increasing number of companies from different sectors with advanced technical ability in electronic device manufacturing are entering the market. The sales of battery-powered electric vehicles reached around 3.5 million units in 2021.
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 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. The importance of such power storage devices will continue to grow.
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 (a market research firm), 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.
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.
As we demand ever more technologically advanced devices, so too is the 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, 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 "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.
Technological innovations in devices hold the key to achieving a decarbonized society. Not only will they have a great impact on the industrial world, but 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.
 Battery-electric vehicle sales worldwide from 2016 to 2021, Statista, [Online], Available from: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1059214/global-battery-electric-vehicle-sales/
 Tokyo's solar panel mandate a major shift in a country where fossil fuels reign, Japan Times, [Online], Available from: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2022/12/18/national/tokyo-solar-mandate-shift/
 Fuji Keizai, [Online], Available from: https://www.fuji-keizai.co.jp/
 Status of the MEMS Industry 2022, Yole Group, [Online], Available from: https://www.yolegroup.com/product/report/status-of-the-mems-industry-2022-mis/
 Center for Integrated Research of Future Electronics (CIRFE), Nagoya University, [Online], Available from: https://imass.nagoya-u.ac.jp/en/organization/cirfe/
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