Betting on the potential of "RB Ceramic", a new material born from rice branSANWA-YUSHI Co.,Ltd
SANWA-YUSHI Co.,Ltd has produced rice oil for 70 years since its founding. Now, through an industry-academia partnership, it has developed "RB Ceramic", a porous carbon material that is made from rice bran which is left over after extracting rice oil. RB Ceramic offers numerous properties such as high hardness, low friction, and low wear. We spoke with General Manager Fumio Shimanuki regarding the potential of this material, which offers many advantages in terms of the SDGs.
Embracing the challenge of creating high added value from large amounts of strained rice lees
In recent years, "rice oil" has been gaining attention due to growing health consciousness. This oil is contained about 20% in the rice bran that is generated when polishing brown rice. Until now, the remaining 80% of the rice bran after extracting oil has been used only in fertilizer and mixed livestock feed.
"However, the cost of delivery erases most of the profits derived from fertilizer sales. From this 80%, we explored ways to create higher added value than fertilizer. Ultimately, our search led us to "RB Ceramic"."
RB is an acronym formed from "Rice Bran." RB Ceramic is a porous carbon material derived from rice bran. It was developed through joint research with Yamagata University. RB Ceramic is manufactured by mixing defatted rice bran with materials such as phenolic resin, which is used as a raw material for plastics, and then baking the material using a unique method. RB Ceramic has been found to possess excellent properties such as hardness similar to steel, low friction with a friction coefficient of 0.13 to 0.2, and low abrasion which is 1,000 times that of steel.
"RB Ceramic becomes less slippery when it is roughly crushed. Therefore, it is mixed with rubber and used for items such as shoe soles. Conversely, RB Ceramic becomes more slippery when finely crushed. Therefore, it is used for sliding parts such as bearings and gears without oil, and it also contributes to improved maintenance."
Stable supply is possible because the raw material is a staple Japanese food
Stable supply of materials is another important point. In this regard, it can be said that RB Ceramic has an advantage because it is made from rice, a staple Japanese food.
"Japanese rice consumption is said to be 7 million tons per year. Rice bran accounts for about 10% of that quantity. Approximately half of this rice bran is used in the rice oil industry. Therefore, we believe that it is possible to supply RB Ceramic with sufficient stability according to needs."
Currently, in addition to the slip-resistant shoes soles and sliding members mentioned above, RB Cermaic is also applied to other uses such as blades for running on ice as used for Olympic "luges", as well as for the moving parts of the "Subaru Telescope".
"Due to the growing environmental awareness in association with concepts such as the SDGs, I feel that RB Ceramic is attracting more attention when displayed at exhibitions. Furthermore, the ease of stable supply is a great advantage of ceramics made from rice bran as a raw material."
Example of a product utilizing RB Ceramic from SANWA-YUSHI
Birth of the porous carbon material "RB Ceramic"
During its long history of 70 years, the core businesses of SANWA-YUSHI have always been related to rice oil. It seems that the company is frequently perplexed by the materials industry which it has recently entered.
"In the world of rice oil, everyone uses the same basic standards. However, when it comes to materials, various standards are desired depending on the customer. Such aspects require further study. Having a partner who can serve as a bridge in such areas would be extremely reassuring."
SANWA-YUSHI believes that "RB Ceramic will become the pillar of the company in the future". While considering expansion into areas related to aircraft, space, and underwater machinery, SANWA-YUSHI's immediate goal is to increase awareness for RB Ceramic among even more people. The company will therefore continue to participate in various exhibitions.
"Without a doubt, RB Ceramic is a one-of-a-kind material. SANWA-YUSHI hopes to meet with many corporations that will cooperate in finding new ways to use RB Ceramic. As long as these ideas lead to practical application, we are open to any sector, industry, or application."
Subject of Interview = General Manager, Fumio Shimanuki
SANWA-YUSHI Co., Ltd was established in 1949. The company manufactures commercial and general-purpose "rice oil" made from rice bran. SANWA-YUSHI has commercialized the premium rice oil "Komeyu", which is made using a unique pressing method, and "Haiburefu", which is a health material made using a low-temperature pressing method. Furthermore, through joint research with Yamagata University, the company succeeded in developing "RB Ceramic", a hard porous carbon material made from rice bran after oil extraction.
Coverage date February 12, 2020
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