Toyoda Gosei Concludes Exclusive Licensing Agreement for the Chief "Supramolecule" Material in "e-Rubber" Being Developed for Dielectric Actuators and Dielectric Sensors
Kiyosu, Japan, May 18, 2017: Toyoda Gosei Co., Ltd. and Advanced Softmaterials (ASM) Ltd.*1 (Chiba Prefecture, Japan) have concluded an exclusive licensing agreement for the use and sales of "Slide-Ring Material,"*2 a key material in e-Rubber.*3 The agreement is limited to applications of the material in dielectric actuators and dielectric sensors.
Research and development on Dielectric actuators began in the USA during the 1990s. They are characterized by softness, light weight, high output and low energy consumption. A great deal of research work has been done so far worldwide for a very broad range of applications such as "artificial muscles for robotics" and other uses as a next-generation source of motive power to replace electromagnetic motors.
Dielectric sensors are also promising for use as tactile/pressure sensors and motion sensors that take advantage of this softness. As with actuators, however, there were issues caused by the basic physical and chemical properties of materials (internal friction, durability, etc.).
Toyoda Gosei, using Slide-Ring Material with its supramolecular structure and material design technology cultivated in the development of automotive parts as a specialist in the field of polymers, has achieved performance that overcomes these issues and reached the stage of developing practical applications in various fields.*4
With this exclusive licensing agreement, Toyoda Gosei and ASM will work more closely together to accelerate the development of e-Rubber for practical uses in smart devices to be employed in various kinds of next-generation robots that will support aging societies with falling birth rates, industrial equipment, automobiles and IoT.*5
Promising fields of use
*1 ASM was established in 2005 with the aim of commercializing the Slide-Ring Material developed at Tokyo University.
It has acquired an exclusive license for the basic umbrella patent for Slide-Ring Material from Tokyo University.
*2 The basic structure of the slide-Ring Material is the supramolecular networks comprised of nano-sized "necklace" supramolecules called polyrotaxane with cross-linking points of bonded molecular necklaces or molecular necklaces with other polymers . These molecules consist of polyethylene glycol linear polymers, cyclodextrin ring molecules, and adamantanamine stopper molecules. Polyrotaxane was first composed at the laboratory of Prof. Akira Harada in 1990.
At Prof. Kohzo Ito’s laboratory at The University of Tokyo, the amount of clathrate in the cyclic molecules (cyclodextrin) of a molecular necklace (polyrotaxane) was controlled and given free movement in a linear polymer, thereby cross-linking bonded cyclic molecules, cyclodextrin or a component of Slide-Ring Material. Taking this as a cross-linking point, cross-linking the bonded molecular necklaces with other polymers enables free movement of cross-linking points to build supramolecular networks.
This is the basic structure of Slide-Ring Material. Cross-linking points are used for a pulley effect, equalizing the tensions among polymers. Thanks to this effect, Slide-Ring Material has unique mechanical properties that conventional plastics and rubber do not have, and has been able to form a polymeric material with completely new functions.
*3 "e-Rubber" is a very versatile next-generation smart polymer device as the electromechanical transducers that transduce electric energy to or from mechanical movement. Development work began in 2007, and sample shipments of material that could generate vibration with low electric consumption started in 2013.
*4 Toyoda Gosei is continuing the development of "e-Rubber" with ASM and Tokyo University as "Research and Development of Flexible Sensors and Actuators Using Slide-Ring Material," part of the 2015 NEDO project "Next-Generation Artificial Intelligence and Robot Core Technology Development."
*5 Through efforts based on such OPEN INNOVATION, Toyoda Gosei will continue working to contribute to industrial innovation and creation with outstanding Japanese materials science and technology at its core.
About Toyoda Gosei
Established in 1949 and headquartered in Kiyosu, Aichi Prefecture, Japan, Toyoda Gosei is a leading specialty manufacturer of rubber and plastic automotive parts and LEDs. Today, the Toyoda Gosei Group provides a variety of high-quality products internationally, with a network of approximately 100 plants and offices in 18 countries and regions. Through its flexible, integrated global supply system and leading-edge technologies for automotive safety, comfort, and environmental preservation, Toyoda Gosei is a global supplier that aims to deliver the highest levels of quality, innovation, and satisfaction to customers worldwide.