Evaluating the Environmental Impacts of a Nano-Enhanced Field Emission Display Using Life Cycle Assessment: A Screening-Level Study

Carbon nanotube (CNT) field emission displays (FEDs) are currently in the product development stage and are expected to be commercialized in the near future because they offer image quality and viewing angles comparable to a cathode ray tube (CRT) while using a thinner structure, similar to a liquid crystal display (LCD), and enable more efficient power consumption during use. To address concerns regarding the environmental performance of CNT-FEDs, a screening-level, cradle-to-grave life cycle assessment (LCA) was conducted based on a functional unit of 10 000 viewing hours, the viewing lifespan of a CNT-FED. Contribution analysis suggests the impacts for material acquisition and manufacturing are greater than the combined impacts for use and end-of-life. A scenario analysis of the CNT paste composition identifies the metal components used in the paste are key contributors to the impacts of the upstream stages due to the impacts associated with metal preparation. Further improvement of the manufacturing impacts is possible by considering the use of plant-based oils, such as rapeseed oil, as alternatives to organic solvents for dispersion of CNTs. Given the differences in viewing lifespan, the impacts of the CNT-FED were compared with a LCD and a CRT display to provide more insight on how to improve the CNT-FED to make it a viable product alternative. When compared with CRT technology, CNT-FEDs show better environmental performance, whereas a comparison with LCD technology indicates the environmental impacts are roughly the same. Based on the results, the enhanced viewing capabilities of CNT-FEDs will be a more viable display option if manufacturers can increase the product’s expected viewing lifespan.