The glass industry is an energy-intensive industry, accounting for approximately 1% of the energy consumption of Japan’s entire manufacturing industry. Conscious of its own environmental load, the AGC Group is working to reduce the amount of energy used in its production activities. At the same time, it is contributing to the reduction of society’s energy load as a whole through the development and supply of “environment-related products,” and to expand its business by resolving environmental issues. In 2014, to spur on these initiatives, the Group established a slogan for CO2 emissions reduction through environment-related products. Through its energy-saving and energy-creating products, the AGC Group is working to reduce CO2 emissions by 80 million tons annually by 2020, an amount equivalent to the annual energy use of nearly 16 million average households (Note 1).
SunbalanceTM Low-E pair glass repels the heat of summer through the power of a microscopically thin, transparent metal coating applied onto the glass. In addition, the layer of air between the two panes raises heat efficiency in winter and keeps dew condensation from forming. The overall effect of this insulation and solar control is an increase in the efficiency of air conditioning. SunbalanceTM Aqua Green, created using metallic coating film technology unique to AGC, gives this glass a heat transmission coefficient (Note 1) one quarter (Note 2) of the existing product, 3mm float glass, making it an energy-saving product.
By improving the thermal insulation of residential buildings, it is possible to save on energy usage. In recent years, stringent standards for the thermal insulation capacity of glass used in housing and office buildings have been introduced, mainly in Europe and the US. Accordingly, low-E glass is being introduced in various locations worldwide.
Meanwhile, also in Japan, the rate of area spread for low-E glass in new houses built in 2014 had expanded to 71% for detached houses. However, when existing houses are taken into account, the penetration of low-E glass is still low. If all windows in existing houses were converted to low-E double glazing glass, a reduction in electricity use equal to the amount generated by approximately two nuclear reactors could be achieved.
Vietnam is developing economically, steadily urbanizing and requiring an increasing amount of energy. As a result, the reduction of CO2 emissions is becoming a major concern. By using low-E double glazing glass in residential and office buildings, it should be possible to increase energy efficiency and reduce CO2 emissions.
The AGC Group has been developing a low-E double glazing glass project for two years in Vietnam since 2014, which was selected as a "Private Sector Technology Promotional Project" by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
In May 2015, AGC's low-E double glazing glass was introduced at the ENTECH Energy Exhibition in Hanoi, hosted by the Vietnam Ministry of Industry and Trade. At the event, AGC's Low-E Pairglass took second prize in the energy-saving product contest.
Moreover, in order to raise awareness and promote use of energy-saving glass, the AGC Group invited a group of Vietnamese engineers to Japan in April 2016 to take part in factory tours and other activities. Meanwhile, in June, the Group held a seminar on energy-saving glass in Vietnam. In addition, in order to showcase the energy-saving effects of low-E double glazing glass, there are plans to provide low-E double glazing glass to the training center being constructed by the Hanoi Energy Conservation Center.
Opening Ceremony of the Hanoi ENTECH Exhibition
To achieve a low-carbon society, it is crucial to increase the use of “clean energy” that does not produce CO2. To this end, the AGC Group offers SunjouleTM, which combines glass, an essential construction material, and photovoltaic modules for solar power generation. This glass gathers light from both sides and can be installed vertically, bringing a degree of versatility that exceeds existing modules for solar power generation. Moreover, Sunjoule's excellent design makes it applicable for a variety of architectural uses.
Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing the world today. The importance of reducing CO2 and other greenhouse gases has been recognized since the latter half of the 1980s, with the Framework Convention on Climate Change adopted in 1992, and the Kyoto Protocol adopted in 1997 as the world's first international agreement on greenhouse gas emissions. Despite many countries taking steps to reduce carbon emissions, the level of greenhouse gas emissions is rising worldwide, and the CO2 emissions in 2013 reached 1.5 times (Note 1) more than in 1993.
An effective method to address this issue is introducing "clean energy" that does not produce CO2 or other greenhouse gases. Solar power generation is a representative example of clean energy. However, the large area required and the finite amounts of power generated in each installation environment often prove the need for solar power generation systems that can be installed without such limitations.
SunjouleTM currently offered by the AGC Group features solar cells inserted between two sheets of glass, creating solar power generation modules that can be used in place of flat glass. When regular solar cells are installed vertically, their power output drops dramatically. To overcome this limitation, the AGC Group employs Sphelar® (Note 1), a spherical solar cell that generates power from light coming in contact with either side of the cell, even if the cell is installed vertically. Moreover, covering the surface of the solar cell with glass would normally cause a drop in output, however it has been possible to reduce this problem in SunjouleTM using the AGC Group's raw materials technology. As a result, SunjouleTM produces 95% (Note 2) of the power output of a regular solar cell, even when installed vertically.
It also retains the transparency and superb design needed in glass for architectural use. A number of design options are available, from SunjouleTM SUDARE, featuring microscopic solar cells arranged in sudare (bamboo-blind) rows, to SunjouleTM GR, which has a large environmental PR effect due to the cells' green color, and SunjouleTM See-through, which has amorphous silicon cells (Note 3) that give the appearance of smoked glass. These variations mean the SunjouleTM series can be used in a range of architectural applications.
Caustic soda is a basic industrial chemical that is indispensable to various industries, such as synthetic fibers, paper and pulp. The fluoropolymer ion-exchange membrane FlemionTM is a core component of the ion-exchange membrane process, a caustic soda manufacturing method. In comparison to the conventional mercury process, this process reduces energy usage during production by approximately 40%, in addition to not using any toxic substances. Since 2011, the AGC Group has sold Flemion F-8080TM, a new product that consumes even less energy than regular products.
Caustic soda is manufactured by the electrolysis of brine. Although it was previously manufactured through the mercury process and asbestos diaphragms, there was a risk that these substances would be released into the environment, resulting in pollution. In 1975, AGC Asahi Glass developed a fluoropolymer ion-exchange membrane (FlemionTM) and highly durable activated cathodes, succeeding in the development of electrolysis technology that does not utilize harmful substances.
In addition, the ion-exchange membrane process facilitates an energy reduction of approximately 40% as compared to conventional methods. The current rate of global spread is around 80%, and in Europe, which is taking the initiative in the reduction of greenhouse gases, the mercury method is scheduled to be phased out entirely by the year 2020.
In October 2013, 92 countries including Japan signed the Minamata Convention on Mercury, a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) initiative that obliges businesses to appropriately manage mercury. The AGC Group agrees with the spirit of the convention, and supports the initiatives of the Ministry of the Environment to conclude the convention as soon as possible (Note 1).
In December 2015, the AGC Group participated in a local workshop hosted by the Ministry of the Environment as part of Brazil's survey on current needs in mercury control technology (Note 2). The workshop was held with the objective of introducing Brazilian entities to the technology and know-how of Japan regarding mercury treatment measures. As an example, the AGC Group presented FlemionTM as a means to produce caustic soda without using mercury. Moreover, the Group was involved in the creation of a DVD entitled “Japan's Needs in Mercury Treatment Measures and Cooperation on Technology.” The DVD was distributed at a commemorative event held on the second anniversary of the signing of the Minamata Convention, in October 2015. The AGC Group will continue to support it moving forward, using the knowledge it has amassed on the topic.
The workshop in Brazil
The AGC Group is developing electrolyte polymers and various other fuel cell components based on ion-exchange membrane technologies. Fuel cells for automobiles require superior durability because they are subject to demanding conditions such as temperatures over 100 degrees Celsius and low humidity. The AGC Group developed electrolyte polymers that can enable fuel cells to run continuously for 6,000 hours or longer at plus-100-degree temperatures and humidity of no more than 50%, thereby realizing the world’s highest level of operating performance and durability.
A membrane-electrode assembly (MEA) used in a fuel cell