Gassed Up

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.

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About Mike

Mike Buetow is president of the Printed Circuit Engineering Association ( He previously was editor-in-chief of Circuits Assembly magazine, the leading publication for electronics manufacturing, and PCD&F, the leading publication for printed circuit design and fabrication. He spent 21 years as vice president and editorial director of UP Media Group, for which he oversaw all editorial and production aspects. He has more than 30 years' experience in the electronics industry, including six years at IPC, an electronics trade association, at which he was a technical projects manager and communications director. He has also held editorial positions at SMT Magazine, community newspapers and in book publishing. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois. Follow Mike on Twitter: @mikebuetow

2 thoughts on “Gassed Up

  1. Because I don’t have a membership to the organization…I can’t read the entire article.
    Please … Whet type of Flat panel display (LCD, Plasma, etc……..) is being referred to?
    I doubt the gas in question is used on all types of flat displays…

  2. When is this idiocy going to end? When are we going to grow spines and start fighting back against these climate-change fanatics? It seems the only thing they have to occupy their time is to fly around in their big chartered jets (which apparently emit no toxics whatsoever) so they can tell all of us how to live our lives in such a way as to meet with their approval.

    Listen, the climate was here long before mankind showed up on Planet Earth and it will be here long after we are gone. Further, we have ample evidence of vast climatic changes that took place long before humanity ever exhaled a single breath of CO2. Earth has experienced ice ages and warming trends and it is apparent that there are only two constants on our planet: 1) Things are going to change and 2) Human vanity never ends.

    Cannot somebody find *real* jobs for these climate wackos so they can get their meddlesome little noses out of our business?

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