Contributing to Sustainability Through Our Products and Services

Contributing to Sustainability Through Our Products and Services

Our analysis of Rigaku group’s materiality identifies key areas where our products and services contribute to a sustainable society. In this section we provide some examples of products that are used by our customers to reduce environmental burdens, help improve human health, and to drive forward the technology that will power humanity’s future prosperity in a sustainable way.

Where did the water necessary for life on earth come from?

Where did water on the earth come from? Where was the organic matter that constitutes life on our planet produced?

C-type asteroid Ryugu in the nearest asteroid belt to the earth is believed to still retain water and organic matter formed about 4.6 billion years ago, around the time when the solar system was born from a spinning dust cloud.

With the aim of gathering samples, “Hayabusa 2” was launched from Tanegashima Space Center on December 3, 2014, and arrived in synchronized orbit with Ryugu on June 27, 2018. It then collected 5.4 grams of sample material and travelled back to the earth, arriving safely on December 6, 2020. Hayabusa had travelled 6 billion kilometers in total over 2,195 days.

Illustration: Akihiro Ikeshita
Picture provided by: ISAS/JAXA

On June 23, 2021, Rigaku, which participated in the initial analysis project, received a 30 mg sample out of 100 mg provided to the chemical analysis team. Using wavelength dispersive X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (WDXRF), Rigaku performed chemical composition analysis including carbon and oxygen, and specified the content rate of a total of 20 elements of main components and trace elements with a content of tens of ppm or more. This analysis shows that the water content in the Ryugu sample is less than half of that found in CI chondrite meteorites. This indicates that the sample from Ryugu has not been affected by exposure to the Earth’s environment, unlike the CI chondrite meteorites that had hit the earth 80 years before, and retains the elemental composition of the primordial solar system. As a result, the connection between the material chemistry of meteorites that hit the Earth and asteroids still in orbit was proven for the first time.

Then in August 2022, Rigaku received another sample of around 1 mg for analysis using thermogravimetry differential thermal analysis and gas chromatography mass spectrometry (TG-DTA+GC-MS). This analysis showed that the amount of water content in Ryugu sample is less than half of that in the CI chondrite meteorites.

ZSX Primus IV
ZSX Primus IV

This indicates that the sample from Ryugu has not been affected by exposure to the Earth’s environment when compared to CI chondrite meteorites that hit the earth 80 years before, and it retains the elemental composition of the primordial solar system. It therefore has very high value for space science research, including the formative history of the solar system and original source of water.

Rigaku also analyzes the sample which asteroid probe ”OSIRIS-Rex” of NASA collected from asteroid Bennu and plan to compare the result with the one of Ryugu as a part of the NASA analysis team’s research.

Click here for details of ZSX Primus IV
Click here for details of TG-DTA+GC-MS (Japanese)
Click here for press release "Rigaku analyzes samples collected by NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex"

World's first fully automated reducing vaporization mercury analyzer

Mercury is the only metal element which is liquid at room temperature and can easily evaporate.

Mercury emitted into the environment from a variety of sources circulates on the earth, remaining in soil, sea and groundwater without decomposing after 1-2 years of retention.

Japan consumed around 2,500 tons of mercury per annum at the peak, before mercury’s toxicity was properly acknowledged. Since then, it has been replaced by alternate products/technologies and demand for mercury usage in Japan has decreased to about 5 tons. Yet in some countries, mercury is still widely used, and there is a need to measure mercury concentration in the water, as well as looking for ways to reduce mercury usage.

Nippon Instruments Corporation (NIC – a Rigaku company) developed the Reducing Vaporization Mercury Analyzer RA series. For the first time in the world, this analyzer fully automates the 10 steps needed for preparation and measurement of samples including tap water, factory wastewater, and soils. In 2023, this innovative product won the “Excellence Award” at the 50th Environmental Awards, sponsored by the Ministry of the Environment Japan, for its multiple benefits of decreasing environmental impact (less chemicals use; less waste generated; less power consumption) and also for its value for money.

RA-7000A Series
RA-7000A Series

The analyzer uses a high-sensitivity detector which can detect mercury concentration of less than 1/10 of the environmental standards level, enabling analysis based on a sample volume as little as 5 mL. Waste disposal is reduced by 50%, power consumption decreased by 30% (emission decreased by about 51 kg/year in CO₂ terms: measurement condition assuming a use of three times/week and 150 times/year, per system), and measuring time is shortened by around 20% compared with the existing analyzer. NIC’s mercury analyzers have been exported to over 60 countries through our global sales network.

NIC also contributes to the management and reduction of mercury in the environment through technical cooperation projects with Japan’s Ministry of the Environment, and with UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme), and conducts educational outreach initiatives.

Click here for details of RA-7000A Series

Measurement of asbestos in building materials

Asbestos is a natural mineral found in six types: actinolite, amosite, anthophyllite, chrysotile, crocidolite, and tremolite. Among them, chrysotile accounts for over 90% of asbestos used in the world. Asbestos’s low cost and excellent heat/fire/corrosion resistance and sound insulation are the properties that contributed to its widespread use as a spray-on coating, or as roofing or interior/exterior decoration material.

Crocidelite (blue asbestos)
Amosite (brown asbestos)
Chrysotile (white asbestos)

(Pictures provided by JATI Association.)

However, it has been found that degraded and scattered asbestos powder can cause health damage, including pulmonary fibrosis, malignant mesothelioma, and lung cancer by inhalation. So, its production, import, and usage were prohibited in Japan in 2006. Then the Amended Air Pollution Control Act mandated that all buildings demolished or renovated must undergo an investigation by asbestos surveyors, starting from October 2023 in Japan. The usage of materials, spray-on coatings, and humectants with asbestos content exceeding 0.1% is prohibited. Polarized light microscopy, phase-contrast microscopy, and X-ray diffraction analysis are used to investigate them.

Renovation rush!

There was a construction boom in the 1970s and 1980s during the Japanese economy’s high-growth period. Many of these buildings are coming to the end of their useful life. During demolition or renovation of these buildings, there is a serious risk of exposure to workers from scattered asbestos.

Detecting 0.1mass% asbestos in talc using an X-ray diffraction system
SmartLab SE

The fully automated multipurpose X-ray diffraction system SmartLab SE can detect low asbestos content at around 0.1mass% without special sample preparation. Rigaku is proud to contribute to the investigation of asbestos in building materials to help build a healthier society.

Click here for details of SmartLab SE

Structural analysis of next-generation drugs

Currently, middle molecule drugs are a trend in the pharmaceutical industry, and active drug discovery research is ongoing worldwide. Middle molecule drugs are new drugs that are located between small molecule drugs and biopharmaceuticals such as antibody drugs. They have the advantages of small molecule drugs such as oral administration and low manufacturing costs, and the advantages of biopharmaceuticals such as high specificity and low side effects, and are attracting attention as a next-generation modality.

Among these, cyclic peptide drugs, in which the amino terminus and carboxyl terminus form a cyclic structure with an amide bond, can target not only extracellular but also intracellular molecules. Therefore a wider range of molecules can be targeted for drug discovery compared with antibodies. Because of these characteristics, they are seen as a next-generation post-antibody drug.

SBDD (Structure-Based Drug Design) is a drug discovery method that designs and narrows down new drug molecules. Molecular design is performed based on the three-dimensional structure information of the target protein, but when the crystal size of the protein is small, structural analysis is generally considered difficult.

Our single-crystal X-ray analyzer combines the highest brightness X-ray source at the laboratory level, a low-noise, high-sensitivity semiconductor detector, and software that can maximize the performance of the hardware. It is now possible to analyze microcrystals, which were previously difficult to analyze, at high speed and with high precision without spending time on crystal growth.

With these advances in our analytical solutions, we are greatly contributing to speeding up the research and development of domestic and foreign pharmaceutical companies.

By irradiating X-rays while rotating the crystal, numerous diffraction spots can be collected. After that, the electron density is calculated by processing with special software. By arranging atoms based on this electron density map, we can learn the three-dimensional structure of the molecule.

Microcrystals of cyclosporin A
Sample size: 20 x 10 x 6 μm
Chemical formula: C₆₂H₁₁₁N₁₁O₁₂
Molecular weight: 1202.61
Structure of cyclosporin A

Click here for XtaLAB Synergy-R
Click here for XtaLAB Synergy-DW VHF

All-solid-state batteries: The next generation of energy storage

Lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) are widely used in portable electronic devices such as smartphones and laptops because they are lightweight and have high charge/discharge efficiency. They can also store a large amount of electricity and are used in electric vehicles and energy storage systems.

The electrolyte used in commonly used LIBs is an organic solvent-based liquid. This has the advantage of high conductivity, but the disadvantages of leakage, ignition due to high temperatures, and performance degradation below freezing. To overcome these drawbacks, various research institutes are actively researching "solid-state batteries," which use solid electrolytes instead of liquids ones, with the aim of commercializing them.

In addition to eliminating the risk of leakage, solid electrolytes are resistant to temperature changes, so they have many advantages, such as high safety, low deterioration, and a long lifespan. Another advantage unique to solid-state batteries is that the structure and shape can be freely changed, which allows for a high degree of design freedom and makes them easy to apply to products. Currently, various manufacturers are actively developing solid-state batteries with the aim of introducing them into electric vehicles, including the development of innovative batteries that can run over 1,000 km on a charge of less than 10 minutes.

The performance of solid-state batteries depends on the crystal structure of the solid electrolyte's ionic conductivity properties and thermal and chemical stability, so analysis of this crystal structure is vital. Rigaku is contributing to the research and development of solid electrolytes by making full use of various analytical methods, including X-ray diffraction.

Schematic diagram of the constituent materials and reactions of lithium-ion batteries and all-solid-state lithium
Kota Suzuki, Masaaki Hirayama, Ryoji Kanno, Rigaku Journal 52(1), (2021), 1-8

Atomic distribution in the unit cell of the all-solid-state electrolyte Li₃PS₄ at each measurement temperature
M. Yoshimoto, T. Kimura, A. Sakuda, C. Hotehama, Y. Shiramata, A. Hayashi, K. Omote, Solid State Ionics, 401 (2023), 116361 (8 pp).

When Li₃PS₄ is heated and the atomic distribution is examined in each of the glass, transition, and crystalline states, it is suggested that Li is diffused in the glass state resulting in high electrical conductivity, while Li is aggregated in the crystalline state resulting in low electrical conductivity.

This trend is similar to that seen in the experimental results for electrical conductivity.