Oct. 23, 2023

Signed a joint research agreement with Tohoku University for domestic production of recycled yellow phosphorusWorking to ensure a stable supply of yellow phosphorus, a raw material for semiconductors

Sumitomo Corporation has concluded a joint research agreement with Tohoku University to establish a new production technology for yellow phosphorus and to commercially produce this raw material for semiconductors in Japan.

Semiconductors are not only used in all kinds of familiar electronic devices but also constitute an important foundation supporting digital and green societies, with the market expected to grow to over 100 trillion yen by 2030. Supply is not keeping pace with increasing demand, however, so stepping up supply capacity is an urgent issue.

Yellow phosphorus is a raw material for the chemicals used in processing thin films on semiconductors and, because extremely high purity is required, it is one of the most difficult semiconductor raw materials to be replaced. The uneven distribution of the high-grade phosphorus ore that is the source of yellow phosphorus as well as the special operating conditions required mean there are only a limited number of producer countries, and Japan relies on imports for all of its domestic demand.

Yellow phosphorus

Tohoku University's New Industry Creation Hatchery Center (NICHe), with which Sumitomo Corporation recently concluded a joint research agreement, is conducting research on the production of yellow phosphorus using phosphoric acid recovered from unused phosphorus resources such as slag, waste acid, and sewage sludge incineration ash ("recycled yellow phosphorus"). Sumitomo Corporation and Tohoku University will establish the production technology and then, following multiple demonstration tests, design and develop a commercial plant with the intent of starting commercial production in Japan in the latter half of the 2020s to meet approximately 30% of future domestic demand.

In recognition of the importance of these efforts to establish production technology and domestic production for recycled yellow phosphorus, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has approved this project as an initiative designed to ensure a stable supply of semiconductors* and has accordingly decided to partially subsidize the project costs. Sumitomo Corporation will continue meeting market expectations from the perspective of security by ensuring stable supplies of critical commodities that support people’s daily lives and economic activities.

  • This METI program aims to strengthen supply chains by supporting private businesses that work to ensure stable supplies of specified critical commodities designated under the Economic Security Promotion Act. Once a plan for initiatives to ensure stable supplies has been approved by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, financial subsidies and other forms of support necessary to implement the initiatives are made available.

In pursuing sustainability management to grow sustainably alongside society, Sumitomo Corporation has identified six key social issues that it must address, one of which is the "circular economy”. Efforts in this regard will help bring about a resource-recycling society by shifting to recycling and resource-saving technologies and products, and by working on the sustainable procurement of natural resources. Sumitomo Corporation will also grow in harmony with the global environment by building supply chains for the chemical materials that support all industries and that contribute to a circular economy.

Click here for more information about the Sumitomo Corporation Group's key social issues

Experimental apparatus for production of recycled yellow phosphorus