Triporous: what is it?

During our Re-think Circular Economy Forum held in Milan in October 2020, Seiichiro Tabata, Triporous Technology Leader at Sony, explained to us about Triporous a brand new porous carbon material Seiichiro and his team developed from rice husks, and during his presentation he explained what it is and how it can contribute to social issues.

What is Triporous?

In 1991, Sony commercialized lithium-ion batteries for the first time in the world. Triporous was developed in the process of exploring new electrode carbon materials for lithium-ion batteries. In the project, they were looking for a biomass containing silica as a raw material. They had a lot of knowledge about procedure of artificial high-performance porous carbon for battery derived from resin/silica nano material. That is why, they decided to focus on rice husk as a raw material.

Taking a look to the manufacturing scheme of Triporous from rice husk it is important to highlight that large part of rice husk, about 20% of the total weight, is silica. Therefore, they have to carbonize the rice husk, and then, etch the carbonaceous material off silica by a basic solution. Then, the porous carbon gets activated by steam, and finally, results in the generation of three kinds of pores. By the way sodium silicate generated from this silica removal process and they recently used it to develop a new functional material called “Zeolite”.

Triporous has not only mesopore but also unique large macropore. Conventional activated carbons does not show large pore structure as Triporous does. Conventional activated carbon mainly consists of micropore below 2 nm. However, Triporous has 3 kinds of pore, micropore, mesopore and macropore and this is why they named it “Triporous”.

When looking at Triporous it is visible the presence of larger “macro” and “meso” pores which in typical activated carbon, derived from coconuts husk, are not as large. Microscopic pictures also clearly indicate the difference between the pore structure of Triporous the conventional activated carbon.

The experiments and the solution

One day, Seiichiro discovered unique adsorption phenomena from Triporous. During his speech, he showed a picture in which the dye adsorption experimental after the addition of various materials was clear. On the left of the picture there was aqueous solution containing dye before the addition of materials. The ones in which they added conventional activated carbon remained blue. However, the solution on the right of the picture, which were solutions with Triporous added, became transparent, completely clear. After the discovery of unique adsorption phenomena of Triporous, their goal changed from investigating new electrode materials to developing a new adsorbent material. Their new mission at the time was to provide people and society with comfortable life with Triporous that can purify water and air.

Indeed, Triporous has three unique adsorption properties. First property is quick adsorption. A comparison of adsorption of ammonia gas and dye molecule between Triporous and activated carbon showed that Triporous adsorbs ammonia gas responsible for body and pet odors six times faster compared to activated carbon.

Second, Triporous can adsorb organic substances of various sizes. In fact, Triporous adsorbs over twice as much high-molecular weight organic pigments and 3 to 8 times more allergens than conventional activated carbon. They were also able to confirm that it is capable of removing more than 99% of viruses and bacteria.

Third property of Triporous is large volume reagent impregnation. Triporous filter indicates more than twice the service life of activated carbon when used in air purifiers and for industrial filters.

Some cases in which Triporous has been used are a detergent from Japanese pharmaceutical company, a body-soap, air purification in the showcase of founding prospectus of Sony and for the preservation of cultural property of world Heritage Byodoin Temple in Kyoto.

How can Triporous contribute to social issues?

Through Triporous, Sony is working on solving social issues and is contributing to Sustainable Development Goals adopted by United Nations. Triporous helps contributing to the recycling-oriented society by the utilization of discarded rice husk, and contributing to SDGs Goal Number 12. Over 100 million tons of rice husks are estimated to be discarded worldwide every year, and about 2 million ton are discarded within Japan alone. 100kg of Triporous can be generated from 1 ton of rice husks. By recycling this huge mass of discarded rice husks, Triporous can contribute to recycling-oriented society and the realization of a circular economy.

Production of Triporous is also a new way to reduce open burning and to contribute to climate change mitigations and to SDGs number 13. According to FAO of United Nations, more than 400 million tons of biomass, including rice husks, is currently disposed of annually in the world by incineration, such as burning in the field. Short-Lived Climate Pollutants, generated by open burning, are said to be one of the causes of climate change, and there is a strong need for countermeasures against them. Sony will expand Triporous technology as a new way to use the rice husk in the world and contribute to climate change mitigations.

Through its adsorption properties Triporous contributes to cleaning water and air, and to SDGs Goal Number 3, 6 and 11. According to a report by the WHO, 2.1 billion people around the world are struggling with access to safe water, and approximately 7 million deaths are due to the exposure from both outdoor and household air pollution. Indeed, Triporous can remove more than 99% of viruses while activated carbon cannot. This property would be particularly beneficial in developing countries. Triporous can also adsorb Volatile Organic Compounds responsible for particulate matter and photochemical smog. Through Triporous, they contribute to world’s access to safe water and to the improvement of air pollution.

Triporous today

In order to introduce Triporous to society, Seiichiro and his team are promoting global open innovation with various research institutes and companies in Japan and overseas and they aim to increase the value of Triporous with functional, brand and environmental aspect.

Their goals are to solve various social issues by utilizing Triporous, and contribute to environmental improvement and mitigation of climate change. The production of Triporous is a new way to reduce open burning and air pollution. And finally, it can adsorb many kinds of pollutants and solve water and air problems.

If you want to know more about it check the video below or read the final report of the event, and visit Tondo’s blog to find out more regarding circular economy.

Francesco Castellano

Francesco Castellano holds a Master degree in Business Administration, and he has gathered almost twenty years of experience in research, finance, consulting, and business management. During this time, he was engaged in different types of projects as a consultant at Bain & Company, launched Uber operations in Turin, and worked in the FP&A department at General Electric.Lately, he founded To... Read more

Francesco Castellano holds a Master degree in Business Administration, and he has gathered almost twenty years of experience in research, finance, consulting, and business management. During this time, he was engaged in different types of projects as a consultant at Bain & Company, launched Uber operations in Turin, and worked in the FP&A department at General Electric.

Lately, he founded Tondo, a cluster of organizations focusing on spreading Circular Economy approaches and concepts, and supporting companies in the transition to a clean and circular future. Francesco is also the ideator and coordinator of the Re-think Circular Economy Forum, a format of events organized in many different locations in Italy showcasing the most relevant Circular Economy solutions.

Francesco has been a guest speaker at different universities and events, like Federico II University, Bocconi University, LIUC - Cattaneo University, Pavia University, Padua University, Catholic University, IPE Business School, 24ORE Business School, Campus Party, Torino Stratosferica, Visionary Days.

Francesco is passionate about Circular Economy, Cleantech Innovations, Venture Building and Entrepreneurship.