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5G networks

Apple supplier Murata shrinks key part for 5G phones

Manufacturer trims mainstay capacitors to one-fifth current size

Packed with more power and features, 5G phones demand smaller core components -- even ones that are already tiny, like capacitors.   © Reuters

KYOTO, Japan -- Apple and Huawei supplier Murata Manufacturing has developed an ultrasmall version of a mainstay electronic component, Nikkei has learned, an achievement that promises to free up space inside densely packed 5G smartphones.

As soon as the spring, the Japanese company is set to start mass-producing smaller multilayer ceramic capacitors that take up just one-fifth the space of existing ones, but have 10 times the electrical storage capacity.

Kyoto-area-based Murata ranks as the world's top producer of these capacitors, with a market share of about 40%. 

Smartphones for fifth-generation wireless networks require bigger batteries and more parts to handle greater functions and a broader range of frequencies. As a result, space inside the devices is becoming cramped.

Murata says its ultrasmall capacitors are one-fifth the size of current models, measuring just 0.25mm by 0.125mm.

Smaller capacitors will provide relief and give phone designers more freedom. Murata's scaled-down version measures just 0.25mm by 0.125mm.

Capacitors, found in all sorts of everyday devices including computers and tablets, regulate power usage in a circuit by storing and releasing electricity. Murata's capacitor business generated 574.2 billion yen ($5.27 billion) in sales in fiscal 2018, accounting for 37% of the company's total. 

Murata thinned the sheets that form the part's layers by refining the ceramic powder that provides the base material, creating room to stack more sheets and thereby add storage capacity without taking up more space on a circuit board.

Murata aims to set itself apart from South Korean competitors and the rest of the pack by adding to its lineup of value-added parts.

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