Japanese producers of solar batteries are in fierce price competition for lower production cost with western and Chinese producers. Tanaka Precious Metals will start mass-producing a noble metal pigment for the next-generation solar batteries and put it on the market in 2013 by making the best use of its accumulated technology of noble metal recycling. Developed by a university in Taiwan, the technology is characterized by a high rate of conversion efficiency from solar energy to electricity of 11.4%. The price of the pigment is scheduled to be less than 10,000 yen per gram, less than one twentieth of the international market price. The noble metal pigment is a powdery pigment that uses ruthenium.
The solar battery based on noble metal pigment does not have so much conversion efficiency as the silicon-based solar battery, but it is bendable, lower in production cost, and able to generate even with low-intensity light. In addition, it can be thin to be attached to building walls and household furniture. Domestic solar battery producers are competing in the commercialization of pigment-based solar batteries. At present, only a Swiss company and an Australian company can supply pigments for solar batteries. Tanaka will participate in the market with the technology on low cost production that it has accumulated through recycling hard disk materials. The company will invest 300 million yen to install equipment with an annual production capacity of one ton to achieve annual sales of 300 million yen in 2015.