Leaders' Ambitions

Featuring a Global Perspective for Energy Issues, Non-Ceramic Business Is Opening Up a New Arena for Social Commitment

Both advanced and developing nations alike share energy issues, but the challenges they face are different. Murata is looking at ways to offer products that suit countries both with and without abundant power supply. To this end, the company needs to develop products from a global perspective, products that allow it to meet the challenges of opening up new markets; and this is exactly where Karun Malhotra can make the best use of the international experience he has accumulated in India, Canada, Japan, and the USA.

Karun Malhotra
Corporate Technology Planning & Management Group,
Technology & Business Development Unit

After joining Murata Manufacturing in 1990, Malhotra engaged in research and development, worked at capacitor factories in Japan and North America, and was involved in capacitor marketing in North America, and was attached to new capacitor business departments in Japan, each for 5 to 6 years. He took his current position in March 2012. While working out a future technical strategy, Malhotra is also responsible for launching Murata’s energy business. His favorite pastimes are walking, cooking, and studying other cultures.

With a completely new capacitor made of a so-called “non-ceramic” material, Murata reached a significant milestone in its capacitor technology in October 2010. Non-ceramic technology is going to open up a totally new business domain, and this represents another opportunity for Murata to develop new markets in the areas of environmental and energy technology.

Developing Non-Ceramic Capacitors Entering the Energy Market

I have been working on the development of non-ceramic capacitors. Research into carbon capacitors, which we started 5 years ago, culminated in the launch of a commercial product in October 2010. With its high storage efficiency, the electrical double layer capacitor (EDLC) can be used like a battery in electronic equipment. As such it is expected to help us expand our business in the promising new energy market. Our innovative non-ceramic technology has already been employed in the power electronics of such products as digital still cameras, digital video cameras, and hybrid vehicles; and we are now studying ways of applying it to automotive engineering and the storage of nighttime power.

Modern ceramic capacitors are used to “organize” the conditions of electric power rather than to store energy. Functionality is, therefore, a more important factor than capacitance. By contrast, EDLC technology can provide high capacitance because it features high energy density and because it can be downsized easily. It can, therefore, be used to store energy regenerated in electric vehicles.

Alliances Facilitate Future Growth

When it comes to developing new energy businesses, I believe Murata lacks sufficient ability to work alone. What we need is a technical partnership covering a broad range of fields, both within the company and in collaboration with external parties. Indeed, I believe that the future will see corporations growing through such alliances. We have recently seen lots of mergers and acquisitions. But in many such cases, the buyer tends to absorb the partner into its culture. For partners to be successful, they must show respect for each other, and alliances ensure such mutual respect. In the energy market, too, we will seek possible partners around the globe.

The new Murata EDLC has also been made possible through an alliance. In 2008, we partnered with CAP-XX, an Australian venture boasting activated charcoal technology. Developed using CAP-XX technology, the new EDLC employs no chemical reaction. Instead it can accumulate energy by physically adsorbing ions to activated charcoal surfaces. Unlike the conventional rechargeable battery technology, it can repeat charges and discharges almost indefinitely. It also allows for rapid charging and discharging. The polymer aluminum electrolytic capacitor is based on the functional polymer capacitor technology taken over from Showa Denko.

Environment and Energy

Murata has announced its policy of focusing on three promising growth markets: environmental/energy technology, automobiles, and healthcare.
By the fiscal year ending March 2013, the company aims to achieve 40 billion yen in net sales from these 3 markets, expecting that the environmental/energy technology will account for 50% of this figure. Here, the company has first started the mass-production of an EDLC, and it is now rapidly developing new products based on functional polymer capacitor technology taken over from Showa Denko.

The energy business represents a promising market. Advanced nations need energy management, while emerging economies want solutions that enable them to use electric power more efficiently.

Energy Transmission with Minimized Loss Is Where Murata Can Help

The energy business represents a promising market. To use electrical energy, we first generate it, and then we transmit and distribute it to consumers. We can also store it by converting it into another form of energy. All these processes inherently involve losses. I am convinced that Murata can contribute to society by reducing such losses. I think energy use is polarized between developed and emerging economies. Advanced countries have no problems with power generation and have complete infrastructures for transmission and distribution. Energy management is the challenge for the future—the challenge of achieving efficient use of energy.

Once generated, it is difficult to store electric energy in quantity. This is why it is a good idea to supply homes with electric power at the right price at the right time, for example, by using nighttime power to wash clothes and charge electric vehicles. The so-called "smart grid" concept can adapt power supply by monitoring consumption levels during the day and night. On the other hand, emerging economies have yet to establish sufficient power generation capacity In these countries, it is important to build power plants, of course, but at the same time they need to consider how to use energy efficiently.

For example, automobiles enjoy the highest sales in populous countries like China and India, where huge amounts of energy are lost during deceleration and braking. We will be able to develop a new business by offering a solution that makes good use of this wasted energy. It is important to recognize such niches. We want to offer solutions that enable the efficient use of energy resources, considering that they are not inexhaustible.

Murata Needs Leaders with Global Awareness Another Challenge Is In-House Human Development

I entered university in India at 16, majoring in chemical engineering. After graduating at 21, I moved to Canada. I came to study in Japan at 23, went back to Canada again, and joined Murata back here. Since then, I have been working for the company for more than 20 years. First, I engaged in development planning, working out plans for the development of lithium-ion battery technology. Then, I worked in a Japanese factory and moved to a production site in the USA. The discipline of chemical engineering covers everything from chemical experiments to equipment engineering, and from operation of equipment to production process design. So, what I learned as a student is very useful for my present job.

I was also involved in marketing when I was in the USA. I came here 5 years ago to develop the new "non-ceramic" business. From my international experience in India, Canada, Japan, and the USA, I believe Murata now needs to globalize itself more than ever. The company boasts abundant funds and human resources, and it has always kept a leading position in the world market for capacitors. I believe we should foster more leaders with international awareness.

We must do a good job, of course, but it is also important to train people. In addition to developing products, as a foreign employee I hope I can be of help in human development, too. Murata still has much room for growth. The company’s first non-ceramic capacitor has just been launched, but many more products will surely follow. I want to develop this technology further to make it a pillar of Murata business in a few years.

Electrical Double Layer Capacitor (EDLC)

The new EDLC from Murata has been launched to meet a variety of customer needs that are arising as high efficiency and functionality are required in battery equipment. In a small low-profile package, the mass-produced model achieves a low resistance in the order of milliohms. By optimizing electrochemical systems such as electrode structures, it makes for flexible charging and discharging processes with low and high outputs over a broad range of temperatures. Assisting short peak outputs makes it possible not only to reduce battery loads, but also to achieve high-output drive, which is impossible using a battery.

Polymer Aluminum Electrolytic Capacitor

This technology can be roughly divided into two categories. One uses laminated aluminum foil, while the other features coiled aluminum foil. The Murata product consists of a chip that uses resin to seal in a multilayer structure featuring a positive electrode made of aluminum foil and a negative electrode of solid conductive polymer. It features low ESR and high capacitance for use in high-frequency applications.