is a leading Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...
ese chemical engineering firm.
Formed in 1939 by the merger of Nihon Electrical Industries and Showa Fertilizers, Showa Denko
K.K. (SDK) manufactures chemical products and industrial materials. SDK's products serve a wide array of fields ranging from heavy industry to the electronic and computer industries. The company is divided in five business sectors: petrochemicals (olefins, organic chemicals, plastic products), aluminum (aluminum cans, sheets, ingots, foils), electronics (semiconductors, ceramic materials, hard disks), chemicals (industrial gases, ammonia, agrochemicals), and inorganic materials (ceramics, graphite electrodes). Showa Denko has more than 180 subsidiaries and affiliates. The company has overseas operations and a joint venture with Netherlands-based Montell and Nippon Petrochemicals to make and market polypropylenes. In March 2001, SDK merged with Showa Denko Aluminum Corporation to strengthen the high-value-added fabricated aluminum products operations, and is today developing next-generation optical communications-use wafers.
Prior to World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...
it was a part of the Mori
Mori is a Japanese and Italian surname. In Japanese, Mori may also be a given name. It is also the name of two clans in Japan, and one in India.-Italian persons named Mori:*Cesare Mori, Italian "Iron Prefect"...
group of companies as . It was founded by in the early 1930s, and opened the first ammonium sulfate
Ammonium sulfate , 2SO4, is an inorganic salt with a number of commercial uses. The most common use is as a soil fertilizer. It contains 21% nitrogen as ammonium cations, and 24% sulfur as sulfate anions...
factory in Japan in April 1931.
- Dec. 1908 Sobo Marine Products K.K. was established by Showa Denko (SDK) founder, Nobuteru Mori, to manufacture and sell iodine in Chiba Prefecture. Sobo Marine Products subsequently developed into Nihon Iodine K.K.
- Oct. 1926 Nihon Iodine K.K. was establilshed.
- Apr. 1928 Showa Fertilizers K.K. was established.
- Mar. 1934 Nihon Iodine K.K. was renamed as Nihon Electrical Industries K.K.
- Jun. 1939 Nihon Electrical Industries and Showa Fertilizers merged to form Showa Denko K.K.
- May. 1949 SDK was listed on Tokyo Stock Exchange.
- Sept. 1951 SDK was awarded the first Deming Prize.
- Apr. 1969 Oita Petrochemical Complex started commercial operation.
- Mar. 1977 Second expansion project of ethylene production capacity was completed at SDK Oita Petrochemical Complex.
- Feb. 1986 SDK withdrew from its domestic aluminum smelting business.
- Nov. 1989 Hard Disk Plant No. 1 completed in Chiba.
- Jan. 1995 Omachi Works obtained ISO 9001 certification.
- May. 1997 Production Technology Center obtained ISO 14001 certification.
- Mar. 2001 SDK merged with Showa Aluminum Corporation.
- Sept. 2003 Japan Polyolefins Co., Ltd. and Japan Polychem Corporation integrated the polyethylene businesses and established a new joint venture company.
- Jul. 2004 Trace Strage Technology Corp., become a consolidated subsidiary.
- Nov. 2004 SDK announced to produce high-power blue LED chips.
- Mar. 2005 SDK sold shares in SDS Biotech K.K. via MBO scheme.
- Jul. 2005 SDK started production of world's first perpendicular magnetic recording technology HD media.
- Jan. 2006 SDK opened new medium-term consolidated business plan "PASSION Project" for the 2006-2008 period.
- Sept. 2006 SDK opened new aluminum cylinders plant in Oita.
- Dec. 2006 SDK opened new hard disk media plant in Singapore.
- Feb. 2007 SDK develops new crystal growth technology for GaN-based blue/white LEDs.
- Sept. 2007 SDK opened its second neodymium-based alloys plant in China.
- Jun. 2008 Showa Tansan Co., Ltd. become a consolidated subsidiary.
Hard Disc Media
- Showa Denko HD Pte., Ltd.
- Showa Highpolymer Co., Ltd.
- Showa Titanium Co., Ltd.
- Showa Denko Kenso Co., Ltd.
- Tohoku Metal Chemical Co., Ltd.
- Showa Aluminum Can Corp.
- Showa Denko Aluminum Trading K.K.
- Showa Denko Packaging Co.,Ltd.
- Showa Engineering Co., Ltd.
- Showa Denko Kenzai K.K.
- Shoko Co., Ltd.
- Fuyo Perlite Co., Ltd.
- Union Showa K.K.
The Petrochemicals Sector supports the growth of Showa Denko's basic business through the manufacture and sales of organic chemicals, olefins and specialty polymers.
SDK is the leader of the Asian ethyl acetate market.The Oita Plant, the main manufacturing base, supplies SDK and other chemical companies with the basic materials for making acetyl derivatives, synthetic resin, synthetic rubber, and styrene monomers.
Innovative products include a new heat-resistant, transparent sheet and film that can be used in flexible displays such as electronic paper and organic EL displays.
Originally focused on general-purpose industrial gases, medical gases, and industrial chemicals, SDK now provides a variety of products including high-purity gases and chemicals for the semiconductor industry. As the semiconductor industry shifted to other Asian locations, SDK established overseas specialty gases production sites in Shanghai and Singapore.
The company also offers an array of technologies and products covering various fields, including food additives, feed additives, cosmetic ingredients, medical and agricultural intermediates, optical-function materials, information-recording materials, functional polymeric materials, differentiated composite material, and liquid chromatography equipment (Shodex
Shodex is a brand of HPLC columns and is best known for innovative size-exclusion chromatography and sugar-analysis columns. In addition, Shodex has introduced highly effective Restricted Access Material columns for both polar and non-polar small molecule analysis...
SDK recently launched an environmental initiative to reduce waste and encourage chemical recycling.
The Electronics Sector includes compound semiconductors, rare earth magnetic alloys, solid aluminum capacitors, and hard disks.
The compound semiconductors business deals with the crystal growth process, providing a wide range of products including Ultrabright LED Chips as well as blue LED Chips.
The solid aluminum capacitor business relies on conductive polymers, a combination of inorganic aluminum materials with organic polymers. The products offer with high heat resistance and high capacitance.
The electronics sector also produces aluminum-based and glass-based hard disks as well as aluminum substrates for hard disks. In September 2008 SDK announced a consolidation their hard disk (HD) media operations by establishing a joint venture with Hoya corporation in January 2009. The joint venture, will owned about 75% by SDK and about 25% by HOYA.However this joint venture ended in March 2009 due to the rapid deterioration of the global economy in the Hard Disk Sector.
The Inorganics Sector consists of the Ceramics Division, Carbons Division and Fine Carbon Department.
SDK's Ceramics products are used in a wide range of fields, including chemical products, refractory products, ceramics, paper manufacture, plastics and electronics.
Key products include alumina hydroxide, alumina, and high-purity alumina. SDK also produces fused alumina abrasive grains, silicon carbide and boron nitride.
SDK produces artificial graphite electrodes, an indispensable material for the recycling of steel. Other products include fine carbulizing agents for iron casting.
In addition to VGCFTM
carbon nanofibers and fuel battery materials already on the market, SDK is focusing R&D efforts on high-functionality carbon products, including battery materials, electronics materials, and materials for alternative energy solutions.
SDK produces heat exchangers, beverage cans, and other high value-added fabricated products from aluminum materials (including rolled, extruded and forged products).
Niigata Minamata disease
The company is known for causing the second outbreak
' is a neurological syndrome caused by severe mercury poisoning. Identical in symptoms to the original outbreak of Minamata disease in Kumamoto Prefecture, the second outbreak in Niigata Prefecture was confirmed with the same name in 1965...
of Minamata disease
', sometimes referred to as , is a neurological syndrome caused by severe mercury poisoning. Symptoms include ataxia, numbness in the hands and feet, general muscle weakness, narrowing of the field of vision and damage to hearing and speech. In extreme cases, insanity, paralysis, coma, and death...
(a type of severe mercury poisoning
Mercury poisoning is a disease caused by exposure to mercury or its compounds. Mercury is a heavy metal occurring in several forms, all of which can produce toxic effects in high enough doses...
) in Kanose, currently part of Aga-machi
is a town located in Higashikanbara District, Niigata Prefecture, Japan. It has an area of 952.88 km² and a population of 13,865 as of April 1, 2008...
, Niigata Prefecture
is a prefecture of Japan located on the island of Honshū on the coast of the Sea of Japan. The capital is the city of Niigata. The name "Niigata" literally means "new lagoon".- History :...
, through the release of organomercury compounds
Organomercury refers to the group of organometallic compounds that contain mercury. Typically the Hg-C bond is stable toward air and moisture but sensitive to light. Important organomercury compounds are the methylmercury cation, CH3Hg+; ethylmercury cation, C2H5Hg+; dimethylmercury, 2Hg,...
into the Agano River
The Agano River is a river which flows from Fukushima Prefecture to Niigata Prefecture in Japan. It is called the Aga River or the Ōkawa River in Fukushima. It is 210km long with 7,710km² watershed....
In the late 1980s Showa Denko decided to change the method it used to produce tryptophan
Tryptophan is one of the 20 standard amino acids, as well as an essential amino acid in the human diet. It is encoded in the standard genetic code as the codon UGG...
, from fermentation
Industrial fermentation is the intentional use of fermentation by microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi to make products useful to humans. Fermented products have applications as food as well as in general industry.- Food fermentation :...
to the genetic engineering
Genetic engineering, also called genetic modification, is the direct human manipulation of an organism's genome using modern DNA technology. It involves the introduction of foreign DNA or synthetic genes into the organism of interest...
of bacteria. Bacteria were engineered to express certain enzymes at much higher levels than normal, and to express other enzymes not normally present in the original bacteria. In 1989 an outbreak of Eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome
Eosinophilia–myalgia syndrome is an incurable and sometimes fatal flu-like neurological condition that is believed to have been caused by ingestion of poorly produced L-tryptophan supplements...
causing the death of 37 people and permanently disabling 1500 more was attributed to the use of Tryptophan. Some epidemiological studies traced the outbreak to L-tryptophan supplied by Showa Denko. It was further hypothesized that one or more trace impurities produced during the manufacture of tryptophan may have been responsible for the EMS outbreak. The fact that the Showa Denko facility used genetically engineered bacteria to produce L-tryptophan gave rise to speculation that genetic engineering was responsible for such impurities. However, the methodology used in the initial epidemiological studies has been criticized. An alternative explanation for the 1989 EMS outbreak is that large doses of tryptophan produce metabolites which inhibit the normal degradation of histamine
Histamine is an organic nitrogen compound involved in local immune responses as well as regulating physiological function in the gut and acting as a neurotransmitter. Histamine triggers the inflammatory response. As part of an immune response to foreign pathogens, histamine is produced by...
and excess histamine in turn has been proposed to cause EMS. Once the link between EMS and Showa Denkos tryptophan had been established, chemical analyses of the tryptophan was performed by researchers at the Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit medical practice and medical research group specializing in treating difficult patients . Patients are referred to Mayo Clinic from across the U.S. and the world, and it is known for innovative and effective treatments. Mayo Clinic is known for being at the top of...
, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
The Food and Drug Administration is an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, one of the United States federal executive departments...
(FDA), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Japanese National Institute of Hygienic Sciences to determine if any contaminants were associated with EMS. Showa Denko reportedly destroyed the GM bacterial stocks after the EMS cases began to emerge.