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Create a New Era, Open up the Future

NEG has been pursuing the possibilities offered by glass, striving to develop products and technologies that contribute to society. In recent years, the application range for unique glass-ceramics (one of our accomplishments) has expanded considerably, beyond tableware and building materials. The newly developed ultra-thin sheet glass totally exceeds conventional expectations of what is possible with glass. We will stay committed to glass materials, and promote research for taking advantage of the material’s features and functions. Meanwhile, we will also develop high-functionality materials, with ever higher functions added by utilizing compounding technology, for next-generation displays, new lighting devices, energy, and other sectors that are expected to grow significantly in the future. We will work on the development of future technologies, encompassing equipment technologies and applications.

Progress in Application of Technology

Ultra-thin sheet glass

NEG succeeded in developing ultra-thin sheet glass that is thin enough to be rolled, by upgrading the overflow process. Ultra-thin sheet glass refers to extremely thin film glass with a thickness of 200 µm (0.2 mm) or less; it is an innovative kind of glass that transcends conventional ideas of what is possible with this material. Ultra-thin sheet glass is expected to find applications in various sectors including next-generation displays, new lighting devices, and energy solutions.

·Potential of ultra-thin sheet glass

Being glass, ultra-thin sheet glass has different properties from resin films. Needless to say, it is far superior to resin films, particularly in terms of thermal stability, gas barrier property, and weather resistance.

Ultra-thin sheet glass is made from alkali-free glass, which is used as a glass substrate for TFT (thin film transistor) LCDs requiring thermal and chemical stability. Considering the good workability of thin glass in addition to the above properties, ultra-thin sheet glass has unlimited potential as a transparent, heat-resistant film material.

Extremely thin film glass is also considered beneficial to the environment. “Glass film” offers various advantages, such as saving natural resources, implementation of a lean, continuous roll-to-roll manufacturing process, increased logistics efficiency, and reduction in waste. We aim to expand the scope of application of ultra-thin sheet glass in the market and consequently contribute to environmental conservation.

·Applications of ultra-thin sheet glass

Ultra-thin sheet glass has many possible applications in a variety of electronic devices that require physical and chemical stability. In this respect, properties such as the gas barrier, weather resistance, and surface flatness of ultra-thin sheet glass are extremely useful. We intend to take advantage of these strengths to expand the market.
We have created prototypes to show applicability of ultra-thin film glass to substrates of organic EL displays/lighting devices and thin-film batteries, among others, and demonstrated their usefulness.

Glass for 3D TVs

Developed to deliver enhanced virtual reality, 3D TVs have started to penetrate the home appliance market. Regarding 3D images on LCD TVs, a thinner glass substrate of LCD panels leads to less parallax and better image quality. We manufacture large substrate glass of 2,200 mm (height) × 2,500 mm (width) with a thickness of 0.3 mm (about half of conventional products) for 8G LCDs by taking full advantage of the overflow process. Our substrate glass helps produce more beautiful 3D images than ever before.

Development of technologies and products for the future

As a step towards the future, NEG has established an organization and framework that enhances the efficient development of new products and concepts without being restricted to conventional wisdom. We will expand our horizons into new sectors by promoting the development of products that take advantage of optical functions of glass and glass-ceramics with new functions, and by compounding these glass materials with coating and laminating technologies that have been refined in the course of our business operations.

Development of compounding technologies

NEG takes pride in its core technologies in glass. While refining its glass technologies on an ongoing basis, NEG develops products with enhanced functions by utilizing technologies for compounding glass with metals, ceramics, and resins. For example, light reflection can be reduced or light of specific wavelengths can be reflected by applying coatings of metals or oxides on glass. Meanwhile, hard-to-break lightweight materials with a glass surface can be produced by combining thin sheet glass with resin.

Next-generation displays

OLED displays are the most promising candidate to be used in TVs. Ultra-thin sheet glass that is characterized by excellent gas barrier properties and thermal stability is used as substrates to help reduce the panel thickness and extend the service life. We also develop (i) custom designed glass substrates on which ITO transparent electrode is formed to meet the needs of customers by taking advantage of thin film technologies, and (ii) low-temperature sealing glass for guaranteeing the long-term reliability of display devices.

New lighting devices

LED (light-emitting diode) lamps have been increasingly replacing incandescent lamps. Straight tube type LEDs are also available. We develop phosphor-glass composite for converting blue light emitted from LEDs and LDs (laser diodes) into white light by taking advantage of composite powder glass technologies. Highly reliable light sources that are free from discoloration (due to the strong light of high-power LEDs and LDs) and thermal quench have been developed. OLED is a promising material for new lighting devices; as in the case of displays, ultra-thin sheet glass is the optimal material to be used as substrates. Prototypes of flexible flat light sources have been developed to show applicability of ultra-thin sheet glass.

Energy solutions

Solar cells are the primary means of power generation using renewable energy. While solar cells represent eco-friendly technologies, they have the disadvantage of unstable power generation capability due to weather changes. Notably, stable power-supply units that work during the nighttime can be achieved by combining solar cells with storage batteries. NEG promotes the development of glass substrate, thin film electrodes, and low temperature sealing glass for dye-sensitized and other solar cells. We have also commenced shipment of multilayer-film mirrors (manufactured with thin film technologies; characterized by excellent thermal stability and capable of efficiently reflecting most of sunlight) that are used as components in solar thermal power generation plants. Designed to help increase power generation efficiency and reliability, our multilayer-film mirrors are available in large sizes (1 m × 1 m).

Hybrid and electric vehicles require storage batteries of minimal weight and size. High-performance secondary batteries are also essential for households to efficiently store electricity derived from solar power generation and harness electricity on an as-needed basis. We develop electrode materials with glass-ceramics technologies to improve the performance of lithium-ion secondary batteries that are widely used today.

We also developed thin film lithium-ion secondary batteries by using ultra-thin sheet glass in collaboration with Professor Mamoru Baba of the Graduate School of Engineering, Iwate University. A joint R&D project (involving Iwate University, ULVAC, Inc., the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, and NEG) is under way to develop integrated batteries by compounding solar cells with lithium-ion secondary batteries. Such batteries are expected to help develop ultra-thin mobile auxiliary power supply units (which can be used anytime, anywhere), reduce the thickness of mobile electronic devices, and develop power sources for next-generation IC cards, among other benefits.

NEG will further explore the potential of glass, continue opening up new possibilities, and develop products that contribute to society.