OSAKA -- Panasonic will develop a compact and efficient water purification system suited for use in rural communities of India, in collaboration with local conglomerate Tata Group.
A special photocatalyst devised by the Japanese electronics maker will be used to detoxify harmful substances to make drinking water. The photocatalyst is up to 100 times faster than conventional varieties, providing an equivalent boost in handling capacity.
Designed to serve small rural communities, where water supply infrastructure is underdeveloped, the system will be compact enough to fit in a light-duty truck's cargo bed.
A prototype has already been created that can make 3 tons of drinking water per day, enough to supply 20 average households.
Panasonic and Tata will work to lower the purification cost to less than 100 yen ($0.95) per ton of water in order to make the product affordable for widespread use. Tata, which has automotive and steelmaking units under its umbrella, will offer expertise and business networks in re-examining design and procuring materials locally. The partners are targeting fiscal 2018 for commercialization.
Panasonic positions water businesses as a pillar of its new operations, and is taking its first steps to expand overseas in the field.
The water business market in Asia and Oceania is projected to reach $90 billion in 2020, tripling in a decade, according to the Japan Research Institute. It will surpass the European market to become the world's largest.
Nearly 80% of the demand will be related to water supply and sewage treatment. Amid sharp population growth in India, China and other emerging economies in Asia, industrial activity that pollutes water, together with underdeveloped water-treatment infrastructures, are causing severe shortages of drinking water.
Other Japanese companies are also making similar moves. Metawater, which counts ceramics producer NGK Insulators and Fuji Electric as shareholders, has been entrusted with the task of updating facilities for Cambodia's Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority. As early as next summer, it will replace the authority's existing sand filtration system with a more efficient ceramic membrane filtration system. With its ultrafine pores and durability, the ceramic system is able to provide safe drinking water at lower cost.
In China, Hitachi Zosen is developing low-cost sewage treatment systems for municipalities, using a technology that breaks down nitrogen with microbes.
While European and U.S. companies like Veolia Environment, Suez Environment and General Electric are leaders in the business of building and managing water plants, the Japanese players will work to strengthen their presence in Asia by capitalizing on unique competitive technologies in water purification.