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Flat panel displays: Green expectations

Photonics Spectra
Mar 2009
Caren B. Les, caren.les@laurin.com

AUSTIN, Texas – By 2012, 70 percent of flat panel display shipments are expected to feature environmentally friendly characteristics, up from 20 percent in 2008, and by 2014, “green” shipments will dominate the market, according to a report from DisplaySearch, a market analysis firm based in Austin.

Titled Green Technology in Flat Panel Displays: Market Technology and Trends, the report addresses three kinds of flat panel displays: plasma, organic LED and thin-film transistor liquid crystal. DisplaySearch considers displays to be eco-compatible if they meet one or more of several conditions; that is, if they have environmentally friendly components and materials; achieve lower power consumption by using new components or technologies; are compliant with environmental regulations, such as for waste disposal; use production processes that reduce the amount of energy and materials consumed; are completely or partially recyclable; or incorporate eco-friendly concepts into their design, packaging, methods or materials.

FNdisplay_iStock7429085Med.jpgAccording to DisplaySearch, green flat panel displays, which were in development in 2008, are expected to move into the implementation phase in 2009 and into marketing promotion in 2010, to pass the 50 percent mark in widespread adoption in 2011 and to achieve 100 percent adoption in 2014.

Participants in the flat panel display supply chain are interested in the greening of the displays because of drivers such as environmental regulations, including EnergyStar; cost reduction, which should happen as green technology improves and more suppliers join the effort; reduced liability, by preventing future damages or customer claims; and, finally, because of social responsibility.

Long-term benefits of green tech

The cost and performance balance is the main challenge facing green flat panel display makers, according to David Hsieh, vice president of Greater China Market at DisplaySearch. Green technology is not always a cost saver, he said, adding that new green components may be more costly than their nongreen counterparts, or a new green manufacturing process might hurt the production efficiency or yield rate in the short term, even though it could be more cost-effective and environmentally friendly in the long term.

Many people in the industry question the necessity for an emphasis on green technology during the current economic situation, in which there is an oversupply of panels in a slow-demand-growth market, Hsieh said. Sometimes there are higher costs initially, but in other cases, such as the replacement of backlight lamps with cheaper optical films, there can be savings.

Paths to savings

DisplaySearch analysts believe that all green technology will save costs in the long run for both flat panel makers and their customers, the latter of whom will save in electricity costs by using more energy-efficient panels. Customer demand for these green products will help the industry gain new momentum, according to Hsieh.

LCDs are still the dominant technology in the television and personal computer industry, he said. Alternatively, organic LED technology is naturally greener than LCD and plasma display panel technology because of its simpler structure and lower power consumption. Greener plasma technology can be brought about with high luminous efficiency, eco-friendly material with lower electro-magnetic interference, and new manufacturing processes that reduce the amount of materials used.

There currently are four approaches to achieving greener thin-film transistor LCDs, according to DisplaySearch analysts.

The first is to adapt greener panel designs, such as new cell structures that increase panel transmittance, or new technologies, such as polymer sustained alignment, color filter-on-array, superhigh-aperture ratio or AU Optronics Corp.’s advanced multidomain vertical alignment.

The second is to use energy-saving production processes, such as photomask reduction and ink-jet printing of color filters. The third is to incorporate green components such as glass, color filters, liquid crystal, optical films and LED backlights. And the fourth is to redesign packaging using recyclable materials and space-saving containers for transportation efficiency.


GLOSSARY
plasma
A gas made up of electrons and ions.
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