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Fusing Energy, Electronics and Ecology
Asahi Kasei E-Materials Korea makes Hipore™ battery separators for Korea’s growing lithium ion battery needs
The folks over at Asahi Kasei E-Materials Korea Inc. spend a lot of time thinking about the inside of something most of us use without realizing we do - lithium ion batteries.
A lithium ion battery has positive electrodes made from lithium cobalt oxide and negative electrodes made of carbon, a staff member explains. When the battery charges, lithium ions move from the positive electrodes to the negative electrodes, attaching to the carbon. During discharge, these ions move back to the lithium cobalt oxide.
What Asahi Kasei E-Materials Korea does is make a lithium ion battery separator membrane called Hipore that separates the positive and negative electrodes while letting ions pass through.
“So it looks like just a simple film, but it’s a very complicated and very sensitive material,” said Hiroaki Niizeki, president and representative director of Asahi Kasei E-Materials Korea, through a staff interpreter.
It makes perfect sense that the Tokyo-based Asahi Kasei E-Materials started E-Materials Korea in 2010. Lithium ion batteries, which are becoming increasingly common and popular because they’re among the most energetic and light rechargeable batteries available, are used in cell phones, laptops, pretty much anything that uses a rechargeable battery. And Korea is the biggest lithium ion battery producer in the world, Niizeki said.
Put another way, customers in Korea including Samsung Group and LG Group need more separators, Niizeki added. The growing use of hybrid electric vehicles and all-electric vehicles, which use separators, is also expected to increase the need for lithium ion batteries.
“So our customers will be much more than before,” the president said.
The “E” in E-Materials Korea, the head office for which is located in Yeoido-dong, stands for energy, electronics and ecology, as the philosophy of the global Asahi Kasei E-Materials is to contribute to sustainable growth and prosperity using chemical technology for green electronic materials.
Asahi Kasei E-Materials is one of the Japanese company Asahi Kasei Corp.’s nine companies. It focuses on energy materials and electronic materials and has three business sectors - clean energy materials, functional materials and semiconductor & printed circuit board materials.
E-Materials Korea mainly produces Hipore, which falls under the clean energy materials sector. The company has a factory in Pyeongtaek, warehouses and about 100 employees.
Hipore, the market leader, is available in sub-micro porous materials. Its importance is shown in what happens when something goes wrong, when positive electrodes and negative electrodes cause a short circuit - for example, due to a puncture in the separator.
“If other materials pass through where they shouldn’t, the battery will explode,” Niizeki said.
This explains some of the laptop explosions that made headlines in recent years.
As the company is still in its beginning stages in Korea, it looks forward to increasing production volume in the future and introducing other Asahi Kasei E-Materials products to Korea, including plastic optical fibers, display materials, photopolymers, printing-plate making systems, buffer coat materials and epoxy resins & latent hardeners.
“E-Materials Korea would like to introduce more high-technology products to Korea, hire more Korean people,” Niizeki said.
His company’s goal is not only to increase market share in Korea, but to make use of the valuable information they get from their major customer base here.
“We’d like to directly take it and deliver it to Japan so the factories in Japan can make much better products, what customers really want,” Niizeki said.