Corning develops nature-friendly glass for LCDs

Glass maker Corning Inc. has developed a more environmentally-friendly glass substrate for use in LCD (liquid crystal display) production that is free of all heavy metals, including arsenic, the company said Tuesday.

The new material, dubbed Eagle XG, is a bid by the company to keep ahead of ever more stringent environmental regulations, and will also help in recycling LCD displays made using the glass, Corning said in a statement. For users, it doesn’t mean a great change in terms of health concerns because current LCD displays are safe to use. The most potentially harmful by-products from LCD displays are added to glass during the manufacturing process to prevent the formation of bubbles on the glass part of the screen, which would cause a producer to throw away the entire screen.

Many new materials are being developed in high tech industries to cope with stricter environmental rules in Europe, the RoHS Regulations (Restriction of the use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations), which come into effect July 1 of this year. RoHS regulations ban from EU markets any new electronic or electrical equipment that contain more than certain set levels of heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium and other materials.

The regulations put the onus on manufacturers to ensure the proper materials are used in goods destined for the EU. According to Corning, its new glass substrate is free of heavy metals and other ingredients such as antimony, barium, chorine and fluorine.

“Any new material that makes our products more environmentally friendly is a good thing,” said Yawen Hsiao, a spokeswoman at Taiwan’s AU Optronics Corp., the world’s third largest maker of LCD screens. She said she wasn’t aware of any RoHS regulations that restrict glass substrates currently in use, nor whether or not her company has talked with Corning about working with the new glass.

Over the long term, more environmentally friendly LCD technologies could mean less headaches as LCD screens make their way to landfills. LCD screens are being used in a rapidly expanding number of products, starting from laptop computers to desktop monitors, and now invading the living room with LCD-TVs and other gadgets.

The number of LCD monitors alone sold last year grew 54 percent over 2004, with revenue reaching US$35 billion, according to market researcher DisplaySearch.

Subscribe to the Apple @ Work Newsletter

Comments