A chemical used to make LCD televisions and semiconductors could cause more global warming than coal-fired power plants, a report warns.
Nitrogen trifluoride is a "missing greenhouse gas," according to a study on June 26. It's used in chemical vapor deposition, which makes liquid crystal displays, semiconductors, and
Production of the chemical could double to 8,000 metric tons in 2009, atmospheric chemist Michael Prather, who co-wrote the report, told New Scientist.
Nitrogen trifluoride's globe-warming effect reportedly could be 17,000 times stronger than that of carbon dioxide.
However, the picture is incomplete because nitrogen trifluoride isn't among the six gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol international climate change agreement.
This year alone, its production would release the equivalent of the global-warming emissions from Austria, totaling some 67 million metric tons, New Scientist noted.
And that would amount to more global-warming pollution than all the industrialized world's emissions of perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and of sulfur hexafluoride, which is considered more potent.
Kyoto's terms left out nitrogen trifluoride and some dozen other gases, in part because they weren't produced at a scale large enough to cause significant harm.
Some companies had turned to the man-made chemical initially to reduce pollution.
The market for flat-screen televisions, including LCDs, is expected to boom with the United States' full transition to digital television next February.
Along with it, watchdog groups warn that additional ecological harm could come, if toxic electronics waste isn't disposed of properly. Americans are expected to discard 80 million analog TVs by the end of 2009.
However, LCD televisions are often painted as eco-friendly because they consume less power than plasma and older rear-projection sets.