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Murata to build on mercury-free watch battery heritage with eco-friendly focus

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Murata, a global leader in the design, manufacture and supply of advanced electronic materials, acquired Sony’s battery business group in 2017 and has never looked back.

Building on a heritage of producing the watch industry’s first ever mercury-free battery in 2005, the firm now focuses on building that past into its modern day, environmentally-friendly offering. WatchPro discovers what 2021 looks like for the brand.

Firstly, can you give some brief background to the business?

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Murata is a global leader in the design, manufacture and supply of advanced electronic materials, leading edge electronic components, and multi-functional, high-density modules. Murata innovations can be found in a wide range of applications from mobile phones to home appliances, and automotive applications to energy management systems and healthcare devices.

You might not know the name but Murata technologies are working hard for you every day. A few examples of the typical number of components found in a variety of products include more than 1000 components in smartphones, more than 4000 components in cars and more than 800 in laptop computers.

Established in Kyoto, Japan in 1944, Murata employs 75,000 people across the world. More than 100 billion of pieces are produced each month by its factories, resulting in a yearly turnover of €13.1bn.

How does the 40+ years of battery experience help with the modern day offering?

In September 2017, Murata acquired SONY’s battery business group, conducted by Sony Energy Devices Corporation, Sony’s wholly-owned subsidiary in Japan; Murata acquired Sony’s battery-related manufacturing operations located in Japan, China and Singapore; and assets and personnel assigned to the battery business at the Sony Group’s sales and R&D sites worldwide.

By acquiring Sony battery division, Murata acquired more than 40 year of market intelligence and technological expertise, reinforcing its position of global leader in the field of electronics components, battery being at the heart of many electronic devices used every day..

During its more than 40 year experience in the production of watch button cell batteries, the factory has developed a strong technical know-how to produce a more reliable battery. Indeed, thanks to intensive R&D efforts, Murata could develop a unique manufacturing process for strong anti-leakage performance and the button batteries have superior anti-leakage performance thanks to its unique sealing material and technology.

Optimization of the gasket shape results in the reduction of leakage risks during long-term storage.

How much has changed with regards to becoming more considerate of the environment in that time?

It is thanks to Murata’s heritage in battery production since 1977, its innovative efforts and ongoing commitment to responsible manufacturing that it invented mercury-free silver oxide batteries eliminating the batteries’ polluting effects without diminishing performance of the battery.

These efforts also placed Murata as a leading partner and supplier of mercury-free watch button cell batteries, so-called silver oxide batteries, to many ecologically-conscious, international watch and jewellery makers.

Can you explain more about how the watch batteries you produce are environmentally-friendly?

The mission of Murata has been to produce more environmentally-friendly watch batteries, being ahead of the regulations getting into force.

During its 40 years in the production of watch button cell batteries, the factory has breakthrough major innovations, including the elimination of mercury as a compound and played a key role in the whole watch battery industry in making the watch battery greener.

Indeed, Murata is the world-wide 1st company who commercialized the mercury free watch battery in 2005. This is the result of Murata’s R&D for many years, while other companies considered it as something impossible.  This means that we had invested a lot of resources for the wider environment.

Murata mercury-free batteries use corrosion-resistant zinc –alloy powder as well as anti-corrosion material in the anode material. Finally, anti-corrosion material is extended to the surface collector material to prevent even the slightest leakage.

What positive impact do you think this has on the watch industry?

Murata contributed to the whole watch battery industry. Indeed, Murata produced its first mercury free watch battery in 2005. 10 years later, after recognising mercury negative environmental impact, the European Commission noted that “Mercury (Hg) and most of its compounds are highly toxic to humans, ecosystems and wildlife” and decided to ban the use of mercury in all button cells from 1st October 2015.

Until then, Mercury was tolerated in small quantities of 2% of the battery’s weight. Although toxic, the chemical has been used in the battery industry to prevent corrosion within the batteries which could result in swelling and leakage. Murata started to contribute to preserve the environment 10 years ahead of the mercury ban by EC. Introducing Mercury Free products has reduced the annual usage of mercury by around 470kg.

Should the industry be more environmentally conscious in general and can Murata help it do so?

Murata always considers to be more environmentally conscious. We aim to realise a society where people can live a healthy life with peace of mind, by reducing negative impacts of our corporate activities on society, environment and natural resources. This includes strengthening climate change measures, resource circulation, and the prevention of pollution and management of chemical substances.

What plans does the company have within the watch market moving forward?

Since autumn 2019, Murata has formally introduced its own dedicated micro battery brand for watches. Murata has been traditionally focusing on B2B corporate business and is excited to launch its own brand in new B2C consumer watch battery market to grow and expand the company’s portfolio.

We highly respect that European watch battery market is very sophisticated with high quality requirements. Murata wishes to fully support European watch battery retailers & customers with our highly reliable and extensive product line-up on offer to customers working with us around the globe.

The business has produced cumulative in excess of 10 billion watch batteries and is widely recognized by major watch brands as the manufacturer with the highest market share, supplying 45% of the worldwide demand.

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