Is that new flat screen TV you bought responsible for climate change?
Very possibly, asserts a June 26 article in Geophysical Research Letters. Nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) is “the missing greenhouse gas,” say the authors, Michael J. Prather and Juno Hsu of the University of California, Irvine. A synthetic chemical, it is not covered by the Kyoto Protocol and there are no observations of its presence in the atmosphere, the authors say.
But boy, does it have staying power: 550 to 740 years of global warming potential, which would make it second among the gases listed by Kyoto (trivia answer: first is SF6). This year’s estimated production of NF3 is so massive, it would potentially have a greenhouse impact “larger than that of the industrialized nations’ emissions of PFCs or SF6, or even that of the world’s largest coal-fired power plants,” the authors claim.
Notably, the authors, both atmospheric scientists, tie the presence of NF3 to the widespread production of FPDs. “With the surge in flat-panel displays, the market for NF3 has exploded,” they write. So that big screen you’ve been salivating over might be responsible.
That’s not all. A few years ago, IC fabs under fire for using perfluorocarbons — another gas thought to cause warming — in cleaning, switched. The replacement? NF3.
Reminds me of the lead-free switch, where some of the elements in the replacement solders have been fingered by the EPA and others as possibly even more toxic to the environment and human health than the one regulators were trying to eradicate.