MC and Denka form joint venture in fullerene market
Photo courtesy of Mitsubishi Corporation

MC and Denka form joint venture in fullerene market

Mitsubishi Corporation (MC) and Denka Company Limited (Denka) have entered into a joint venture to enhance their position in the fullerene market, a niche sector of nanotechnology involving carbon molecules. The partnership, marked by Denka’s acquisition of a 50% stake in Frontier Carbon Corporation (FCC), underscores both companies’ commitment to advancing materials science in energy-efficient applications.

Fullerenes, characterised by their unique spherical structure resembling a soccer ball, are made up of single or double-bonded carbon atoms arranged in hexagonal rings. These structures are celebrated for their exceptional conductive and thermal properties and are soluble in common organic solvents at room temperature. Their potential is currently being tapped in organic thin-film solar cells, and they are also being explored for use in next-generation perovskite solar cells, which are gaining attention for their photovoltaic applications. Additionally, fullerenes have promising applications in fields such as smartphone sensors, indicating a robust growth trajectory for these materials.

Since the establishment of FCC in 2001, MC has capitalised on technology partnerships and a robust sales network to penetrate the commercial-use fullerene market significantly. With several patents related to fullerene, including a substantial one in the U.S., MC is poised to drive further innovation and growth in this sector.

The joint venture is aligned with MC’s “Midterm Corporate Strategy 2024,” which focuses on supporting decarbonisation across industries through innovative material solutions. This strategy is part of MC’s broader goal to contribute to a carbon-neutral society.

Denka brings to the table its expertise in carbon-nano-materials and advanced manufacturing technologies derived from its experience in producing acetylene black—a highly conductive carbon material used in applications ranging from lithium-ion batteries to high-voltage cables. This expertise will be pivotal in supporting FCC’s growth and enhancing its manufacturing capabilities.

Denka’s latest management plan, “Mission 2030,” reflects its intent to integrate fullerenes into its ICT & Energy, Healthcare, and Sustainable Living sectors, demonstrating the wide-ranging industrial applications of these materials.

Both MC and Denka are enthusiastic about the potential of their combined expertise to scale up the production and application of fullerenes, addressing both market demand and societal challenges through cutting-edge material science.