Milestone-Proposal:Birth and Growth of Primary and Secondary Battery Industries in Japan
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Title of the proposed milestone:
Birth and Growth of Primary and Secondary Battery Industries in Japan
Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:
Yai Dry Battery Limited Partnership Company gave birth to Japanese battery industry, and was entirely devoted to its growth. Following this glorious triumph, GS Yuasa Corporation and Panasonic Corporation pioneered a huge market of primary and secondary batteries installed not only in industrial equipment but also in home appliances, which contributed to the advance of Japanese battery industry and consumer electronics.
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What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)?
The major historic significance concerning the birth and growth of the Japanese primary and secondary battery industries is described item for item in what follows. 1. Historic Overview before Birth of Japanese Battery Industry Since the first electrochemical battery was invented by Alessandro Volta in 1799 in Italy , a variety of batteries were developed, such as Daniell battery in 1836, Poggendorff battery in 1842, Grove battery in 1844, etc., all of which were ‘wet batteries’. Up to that point, all existing batteries would be permanently drained when all their chemical reactions were spent . In 1859 Gaston Planté invented a lead-acid battery, which could be recharged by passing a reverse current through it. This Planté battery was the first-ever rechargeable battery, which is regarded as the origin of the secondary battery industry . On the other hand, in 1866 George Leclanche invented a battery which consisted of a zinc anode and a manganese dioxide cathode wrapped in a porous material. This Leclanche battery achieved very quick success in telegraphy, signalling and electric bell work, which laid the base of manufacturing the ‘dry battery’. In fact, on the basis of this battery, Carl Gassner invented in 1887 the world’s first commercially successful dry battery, which became the prototype for the primary battery industry [2,3].
2. Birth and Growth of Primary Battery Industry in Japan 2.1 Birth of Japanese Dry Battery Industry It is written in Yai’s brochure that in 1885 Sakizo Yai invented a dry battery and established ‘Yai Dry Battery Limited Partnership Company’, where the documentary evidence for the year of either Yai’s battery invention or his company establishment can not be accurately identified . However, there is the historical evidence that in 1893 Yai acquired a Japanese patent (No. 2,086) for the dry battery invention, and that the Yai’s dry battery was installed in the seismograph (assembled by Imperial University of Science, presently University of Tokyo) exhibited in EXPO 1893 held in Chicago, commanding strong attention from visitors . In 1885 Yai invented a battery-powered clock, for which he obtained the Japan’s first patent (No. 1205) related to electricity in 1891. Since the battery used in this clock was a wet one, which had the disadvantage of requiring maintenance and being unusable when they froze during the winter. Hence he began his quest to invent a dry battery, but there was a great difficulty that chemicals were leaking out of the positive terminal, and the metal became corroded and unusable. Thus Yai tried desperately to impregnate paraffin in a carbon rod, until he succeeded in inventing the first dry battery in Japan. At that time, however, ordinary households could not yet enjoy the benefit of electricity even in Tokyo, where candles and oil lamps were still used for light source, and accordingly battery-powered products were so few that the demand for batteries was very little. Under such circumstances, the Sino-Japanese War broke out in August 1894, when the Leclanche battery was the latest one available in Japan, which was, however, in danger of freezing in the Manchuria’s harsh winter cold. Hence the Yai battery was boldly attempted for use in telegraphy in the War, resulting in substantial success. Soon after, an extra edition of newspaper reported the success achieved by the Yai battery in the Manchuria’s cold, which revealed the existence of the Yai battery, and subsequently made Yai’s company grow successfully [4,5]. Specifically, Yai established in 1910 the sales division of his company in Kanda-ku, Tokyo, and then built a factory in Asakusa-ku, Tokyo, which grew to the largest in Japan with the annual production volume of more than 200,000 units as of 1920. Unfortunately, however, in September 1923 the Great Kanto Earthquake of magnitude 7.9 struck the Kanto Plane, by which all facilities of his company were burnt to ashes. Nevertheless, Yai soon managed to rebuild a new factory in Kawasaki near Tokyo (see Fig. 1), where numbers of commercially successful batteries were produced (see Fig. 2) . In this way, Yai paved the way for the dry battery business. In fact, the functional qualities of Yai batteries were evaluated officially as the best in terms of discharge and lifetime characteristics . Thus Yai beat out domestic and foreign competitors, and grew to reign supreme over the Japanese dry battery market. Eventually, he became known as the "king of dry battery" [4,5]. However, unfortunately he passed away by stomach cancer in 1927, and furthermore Yai’s company was not inherited by his successors. Consequently, this company name disappeared from the registry of the Japan Battery and Appliance Industries Association (JBAA) in 1950 [4,5].
Fig. 1 Kawasaki factory of Yai Dry Battery. Fig. 2 Yai batteries in the market.
2.2 Primary Batteries for Consumer Electronics Following Yai’s glorious triumph, numbers of start-ups were established, among which ‘Matsushita Electric Co., Ltd.’ founded by Konosuke Matsushita in Osaka in 1918, achieved quantum leaps in the dry battery business by making a stepping-stone of the battery-powered lamp (see Fig. 3) developed in 1923 dedicatedly for use in bicycles . With great success in battery business, ‘Matsushita Electric’ was reconstructed in 1935 as a household appliance company, named ‘Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd.’, operating ‘Matsushita Dry Battery Co., Ltd.’ and ‘National Storage Battery Co., Ltd.’ as subsidiaries, both of which achieved dramatic progress after World War II by developing a great variety of primary and secondary batteries, respectively.
Fig. 3 Battery-powered lamp Fig. 4 The first fully metal-jacketed battery ‘Hyper’ (left) and developed in 1923. best-selling batteries ‘Hi-Top’ (center) and ‘Neo Hi-Top’ (right), released in 1954,1963, and 1969, respectively.
Specifically, ‘Matsushita Electric Industrial’ released in quick succession a great number of carbon- zinc (or manganese), silver-oxide, alkaline-manganese, and lithium primary batteries in the mid 1950’s through the early 1970’s (see Figs. 4, 5, and 6), by which a huge market of consumer electronics was created in Japan , where it should be added that (a) ‘Hi-Top’ improved dramatically the life length and temperature property of ‘Hyper’, while ‘Neo Hi-Top’ obtained 17 countries’ patents and 943 domestic patents and utility model rights, and furthermore, a series of these carbon-zinc batteries of Fig. 4 contributed primarily to opening up a whole new market of home appliances, with the greatest market share of dry batteries in Japan, (b) alkaline-manganese batteries of Fig. 5 cultivated new fields of household appliances, such as tape- recorders, 8mm movie cameras, strobes, shavers, etc., due to strong-load and low-temperature characteristics, (c) lithium primary batteries of Fig. 6 released first in 1971 contributed distinctively to opening up a new market of digital appliances, such as electronic watches, personal computers, digital cameras, mobile terminal devices, etc., and (d) the name of ‘Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd.’ was changed to the present ‘Panasonic Corporation’ in 2008.
Fig. 5 Alkaline-manganese Fig. 6 Lithium primary batteries released in 1971 battery released in 1967
3. Growth of Secondary Battery Industry in Japan 3.1 Birth of Japanese Lead-Acid Battery Industry In 1895 Genzo Shimadzu succeeded in manufacturing the first prototype lead-acid battery in Kyoto, which gave birth to the Japanese lead-acid battery industry. At that time the electric grids were so unstable that blackouts occurred very frequently all over Japan. Hence high-capacity batteries were indispensable for standby power supplies, which were, however, dependent mostly on imports. Thereby Shimadzu took great pains to devise a high-capacity battery, until he succeeded in developing the one of capacity 150Ah in 1904, which was attempted for use in the backup power supply in his factory. However, he never dreamed that a total of 400 units of the same products of capacity 150Ah would be ordered from the Japanese Navy to be adopted for wireless telegraphy in the Battle of Tsushima in May 1905 . This proven performance exemplified the practical importance of lead-acid batteries, which enhanced further the manufacturing technologies. In fact, with the rapidly rising demand for lead-acid batteries for use in telephone/telegraph stations, battleships, backup power supplies, etc., he made every effort to tool up production in his factory, until at last in 1912 he acquired the Japan’s first patent (No. 22,232) for manufacturing lead-acid batteries . In 1917 Shimadzu established ‘Japan Storage Battery Co., Ltd.’ in Kyoto. After a continual process of trial and error, at last in 1919 he managed to invent an epoch-making methodology for manufacturing lead-acid batteries, called ‘reactive lead oxide production method’ [7,8], for which he acquired not only a Japanese patent (No. 41,728) in February 1922, but also French, English, USA, and German patents in November 1922, May 1923, May 1926, and October 1929, respectively, together with other 11 countries’ patents, including Italian, Austrian, Belgian, Czech, Swedish, Canadian, and Australian patents. As a result, his factory had to have incessant visitors from home and abroad to look into the manufacturing process in operation . Thus it can be seen that Shimadzu contributed outstandingly to the advance of the world’s lead-acid battery industry. Following Shimadzu’s great achievements, Shichizaemon Yuasa started ‘Yuasa Storage Battery Co., Ltd.’ in 1918, which built the Japan’s largest battery factory in 1919 in Takatsuki, Osaka, (see Fig. 7), to meet the latent demand for lead-acid batteries, which were expected to grow after World War I (1914- 1918) so as to be installed in submarines, railroad facilities, mines, telephone stations, standby power systems, locomotives, automobiles, etc. 
Fig. 7 Head office and factory of ‘Yuasa Storage Fig. 8 High-performance lead-acid batteries for cars Battery’, built in Takatsuki in 1919. (left) and tricycle trucks (right), both released in 1953
3.2 Motorization in Japan With the rapid advance of Japanese motorization starting from the early 1950’s, the number of automobiles in Japan exceeded one million at the end of 1953. As the demand for automotive batteries grew at an accelerated pace, a variety of high-capacity batteries with low-temperature characteristics were newly developed in the early 1950’s (for example, see Fig. 8) [7,9]. In addition, with the rising demand for motorcycles, a new type of compact batteries packed in plastic containers were also produced in the mid 1950’s (for example, see Fig. 9) [7,9,10]. Thus the share of automotive batteries rapidly climbed to the top in the Japanese secondary battery market in 1970’s, which was achieved mainly by the big three battery companies, ‘Japan Storage Battery’, ‘Yuasa Storage Battery’, and ‘Matsushita Electric Industrial’ [7,9,10], where it should be added that the first two companies were merged into ‘GS Yuasa Corporation’ in 2004, and the last one was changed to ‘Panasonic Corporation’ in 2008, as stated before..
Fig. 9 Batteries for motorcycles, released Fig 10 Ni-Cd batteries installed in in 1954 (left) and 1956 (right). electric trains of Kintetsu in 1958
3.3 Ni-Cd batteries for Industrial Equipment and Home Appliances The nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) battery, which is a type of rechargeable battery, was originally invented by Waldemar Jungner in Sweden in 1899. Due to its distinctive features of much higher energy density, smaller/lighter property, over-charge/discharge tolerance, higher performance at low temperatures, and longer lifetime property, as compared with those of the lead-acid battery, the demand for Ni-Cd batteries grew dramatically for use not only in industrial equipment but also in consumer electronics . Specifically, in Japan the development of Ni-Cd batteries started in 1953, to be substituted for nickel- iron batteries so far produced mainly for safety lamps used in coal mines . Subsequently, Ni-Cd batteries were targeted at standby power supplies installed in trains of private/public railway companies such as Kintetsu’s limited express (see Fig. 10), JNR’s Tokaido-Shinkansen (Bullet Trains), etc., radio relay stations of HNK, etc., in the late 1950’s through the late 1960’s, where batteries were of “pocket type”, constructed of nickel-plated steel pockets containing nickel and cadmium active materials [7,9,10]. Furthermore, triggered by the Japanese Building Standards Act revised in 1971, which obliged buildings to be provided with emergency lighting, the demand for high-capacity Ni-Cd batteries suddenly increased for use in industrial equipment, such as backup power supplies (see Fig. 11), uninterruptible power supplies, disaster-prevention wireless systems, aircraft starting, load adjustment, engine starting for backup turbines, etc.[7,9,10,12]
Fig. 11 Ni-Cd battery of 1,500Ah Fig. 12 The first Ni-Cd battery Fig. 13 Ni-Cd battery widely developed for backup power supply ‘Cadnica‘ released in 1964 used in home appliances
On the other hand, expecting much of future diffusion of mobile/portable/cordless home appliances, ‘Matsushita Electric Industrial’ acquired in 1962 a USA patent (No. 3,041,388) for manufacturing sintered-plate Ni-Cd batteries [6,10]. However, it was ‘SANYO Electric Co. Ltd.’ (merged into ‘Panasonic Corporation’ in 2011) that released a Ni-Cd battery, called ‘Cadnica‘, for the first time in Japan in 1964 mainly for use in home appliances (see Fig. 12) . Soon after, ‘Matsushita Electric Industrial’ started the commercialization of Ni-Cd batteries in 1970 (see Fig. 13) , which contributed timely to broadening the application of Ni-Cd batteries not only to household products, such as portable/cordless/wireless appliances, electric power tools, etc., but also to miniature button cells installed in photographic equipment, hand-held lamps (flashlight or torch), computer memories, toys, novelties, etc. [6,10,12] Thus, it can be seen that Ni-Cd batteries also built a firm position in the secondary battery market in 1970’s .
Eventually, it can be concluded that ‘Yai Dry Battery Limited Partnership Company’ not only gave birth to the Japanese dry battery industry, but also contributed primarily to its growth, and that ‘GS Yuasa Corporation‘ and ‘Panasonic Corporation’ pioneered a huge market of primary/secondary batteries installed in industrial equipment as well as in home appliances, and contributed outstandingly to the advance of Japanese battery industry and consumer electronics.
What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed to be overcome?
The Japanese battery industry encountered a number of obstacles in the start-up and growth stages, all of which were timely overcome, as outlined in what follows.
1. Obstacle before Birth of Dry Battery The first obstacle which Sakizo Yai faced before he invented the first dry battery, is briefed as follows: Yai invented in 1885 a battery-powered clock, called the “continuous electric clock”, which was patented in 1891 as the first Japanese patent related to electricity , but the battery used in this clock was the wet one, which had the disadvantage of being unusable when it froze by the winter cold. Hence he began his quest to invent a dry battery, where there was the difficulty that chemicals were leaking out of the positive terminal, and the metal became corroded and unusable. Thus he worked consistently on impregnating paraffin in a carbon rod, until he managed to overcome the difficulty by inventing an impregnation method of paraffin, resulting in the dry battery invention .
2. Obstacle after Invention of Yai Battery Even after Yai invented the first dry battery, there was a serious obstacle to the progress of the battery industry. At that time, ordinary households could not yet enjoy the benefit of electricity even in Tokyo, where candles and oil lamps were still used for light source, and accordingly the demand for battery- powered products was very little. Under such circumstances, the Sino-Japanese War broke out in August 1894, when even the latest Leclanche battery had no function in the Manchuria’s harsh winter cold. Hence Yai got a rush order from the Japanese Army for 50 units of dry batteries, which were successfully utilized for telegraphy in the War . Soon after, an extra edition of newspaper reported the successful achievement of the Yai battery in the Manchuria’s cold, which generated recognition of the Yai battery, and consequently made Yai’s company expand enough to build a new factory in Tokyo, growing to the one with the largest annual production in Japan .
3. Obstacle to Manufacturing Lead-Acid Batteries Since Shimadzu established ‘Japan Storage Battery’ in 1917, he had tried to explore company’s own manufacturing technologies. At that time there was a severe obstacle that the quality of any material used in anode plates of lead-acid batteries was too unstable for their life length to be practically secured. Even though there was an easy choice of importing the manufacturing methodology of such a high quality material, Shimadzu stuck firm to devising it completely in-house . Through a sequence of trials and errors he at last invented in 1919 an epoch-making manufacturing methodology, called ‘reactive lead oxide production method’, for which he acquired not only a Japanese patent, but also French, English, USA, and German patents, together with other 11 countries’ patents , as stated before. Thus Shimadzu contributed outstandingly to the advance of the world’s lead-acid battery industry.
4. Great Kanto Earthquake Even after Shimadzu invented this revolutionary method, there was still a substantial obstacle to promoting diffusion of lead-acid batteries. At that time, it was the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 and the NHK’s start of radiobroadcast in 1925 that caused a drastic change in the demand for lead-acid batteries as well as dry batteries. Specifically, upon urgent request for the infrastructure construction to recover from the Great Kanto Earthquake, a tremendous number of lead-acid batteries had to be manufactured for use in backup power supplies installed in office buildings (for example, see Fig. 14), factories, telephone stations, train sheds, electric power substations, etc. On the other hand, to cope with the rising demand for radio receivers, provoked by the start of public radiobroadcast service by NHK, numbers of start-ups began to produce specific types of dry batteries dedicatedly for radio receivers, which were, however, supplied mostly by Yai’s company . In addition, according as new broadcast stations were opened in prefectural metropolises one after another throughout Japan, a great number of lead-acid batteries were also put into the market (for example, see Fig. 15; A-type battery for the filament voltage, and B-type for the plate voltage in vacuum tube radio receivers) [7,9].
Fig. 14 Lead-acid battery room in the Diet Building. Fig. 15 Lead-acid batteries for radios; A-type
battery (left) and B-type battery (right)
5. Postwar Reconstruction The catastrophic destruction all over Japan by numbers of air raids during World War II (1939-45) was the biggest obstacle to the progress of the Japanese battery industry. Just after the War till 1952, GHQ (General Headquarters of the Allied Powers), led by General Douglas MacArthur, enacted widespread military, political, economic, and social reforms in Japan. To accelerate the postwar reconstruction, GHQ carried out a full-scale deregulation in October 1949 for the automobile production so far restricted rigidly to trucks, resulting in an intense trigger to the motorization in Japan, which created a drastic demand for automotive lead-acid batteries , as stated before. In parallel to this motorization, upon urgent request for industrial reconstruction all over Japan, the demand for high-capacity lead-acid batteries grew dramatically for use in backup power supplies installed in factories, office buildings, grid/railroad power substations, telephone stations, etc. [7,9,10], as stated before. In addition to lead-acid batteries, nickel-iron batteries were also produced in the late 1940’s through the mid 1950’s dedicatedly for safety lamps used in coal mines in large quantity (for example, the annual production volume as of 1950 was 159,000 units) . Subsequently, in the late 1950’s through the mid 1960’s, triggered by the rapid advance of public/private railroad systems, including Tokaido-Shinkansen (Bullet Trains) opened in 1964, the demand for Ni-Cd batteries of pocket type grew suddenly for use in standby power supplies of electric trains, radio relay stations of NHK, etc., [7,9,10], as stated before. On the other hand, the drastic progress of carbon-zinc batteries starting in the 1950’s, represented by those of Fig. 4, expanded firmly the postwar market of battery-run appliances, such as lighters for cooking stoves, stove burners, clocks, etc., where it should be added that the annual production volume of ‘Hyper’ grew to 120 million units in 1955 . Thus carbon-zinc dry batteries contributed consistently to enhancing the electrification of Japanese postwar daily life [6,10]. Thus, it can be seen that in the late 1940’s through the mid 1960’s the Japanese battery industry contributed extensively not only to the postwar reconstruction of social infrastructures all over Japan but also to the magnificent diffusion of Japanese consumer electronics.
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