TOKYO – A Japanese electronics maker announced Wednesday it has developed the world’s tiniest version of a component known as the capacitor, and that’s potentially big business.
Capacitors, which store electric energy, are used in the dozens, even in the hundreds, in just about every type of gadget – smartphones, laptops, parts for hybrid cars, medical equipment and digital cameras. Smaller componentry allows for other innovations and improvements from thinner devices to longer battery life.
Murata Manufacturing Co.’s latest capacitor, measuring just 0.25 millimeter by 0.125 millimeter, is as tiny as the period at the end of this sentence.
Murata, based in the ancient capital of Kyoto, in central Japan, is best known for its bicycle-riding robot, which showcases its delicate sensor technology. But since its founding in 1944, the company’s core business has been ceramic capacitors. It is the world’s No. 1 in market share and production capacity in ceramic capacitors.
It controls about 35 percent of that market, trailed by Samsung Electro-Mechanics Co.
The latest super-small capacitor is a quarter of the size of the previous smallest ceramic capacitor, also developed by Murata, in 2004.
The company’s executive vice president Yukio Hamaji, who leads the component business, said that building something so small that is composed of even tinier layers of material to store electricity, is a challenge, requiring precision in preparing raw materials and baking the ceramic.
“This is so small you can barely see it,” he told The Associated Press. “You can imagine how difficult making something that small can be, and do it in mass production and in stable supply.”
Murata, which employs 37,000 people, rakes in nearly 90 percent of its nearly 585 billion yen ($7.5 billion) annual sales from abroad.
But even the latest capacitor is not going to be making millions for Murata just yet. It is still so new products have yet to be designed that use it.