Friday, June 06, 2008

Mitsubishi Chemical Uses LEDs, Solar Cells for Plant Factories

Jun 6, 2008 18:48
Satoshi Ookubo, Nikkei Electronics

Mitsubishi Chemical Corp will release a lighting system consisting of LEDs and solar cells for factories by the end of 2009 at the earliest.

The lighting system reducess electrical costs by using sunlight and LEDs, which have a longer life than fluorescent lamps. With this system, lighting costs can be reduced by approximately 30%, according to Mitsubishi Chemical.

The number of plant factories that use a lighting source such as a fluorescent lamp is increasing because, for example, vegetables grow better with lighting. But the use of such lighting equipment makes it difficult to reduce the cultivation cost due to the electricity used by the equipment and the cost required to change light sources.

Prior to the market entry, Mitsubishi Chemical will introduce, on a trial basis, the LED and solar cell lighting system to a new factory owned by Fairy Angel Inc, a vegetable cultivation venture company. With cooperation from Fairy Angel, which has expertise in the operation of vegetable factories, and lighting equipment manufacturer CCS Inc, Mitsubishi Chemical will begin a joint experiment aimed at the optimization of the latest lighting system.

Fairy Angel's new factory is being constructed in Mihama Town, Fukui Prefecture, Japan and its operation will begin shortly. The lighting system using LEDs and solar cells will be introduced to part of the factory.

Fairy Angel is considering selling vegetable factories in the future, and intends to utilize the lighting system based on the latest joint development for this plan. A system with fluorescent lamps and a regular power source will be used for most of the cultivation lines in the factory. Mitsubishi Chemical has made an investment of approximately 16% in Fairy Angel.

Mitsubishi Chemical provides LED chip, fluorescent material

The LED used in the lighting system is reportedly composed of an LED chip and a fluorescent material developed by Mitsubishi Chemical. Initially, the process to combine the chip and the material to fabricate the LED will be outsourced.

The specifications of the LED for use "will be determined during the optimization process," Fairy Angel said. White, blue and red LEDs are likely to be used on a trial basis. In addition to Mitsubishi Chemical, other manufacturers may provide LEDs for the joint experiment, depending on the emission color.

The Si-based solar cells will be first procured for use in the lighting system. With a view to entering the market in 2015, Mitsubishi Chemical is promoting the development of organic solar cells. The company intends to expand the use of organic solar cell to the lighting system for plant factories in the future.

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