European Commission to prohibit cadmium from TVs and displays by October 2019

Nanoco, which makes cadmium-free quantum dots for displays, will likely be a beneficiary.

The European Commission has made public its decision to prohibit cadmium from TVs and displays sold in Europe from October 2019 on, as part of the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive. This is subject to ratification by the European Council and Parliament over the next two months. Cadmium in lighting products will be prohibited immediately, although they are not commercially available.

Cadmium is one of six hazardous substances banned from use in Europe in electrical and electronic equipment by the RoHS directive, which was designed to protect human and environmental health. The six banned hazardous substances are the heavy metals lead, cadmium, mercury, and hexavalent chromium, as well as two groups of brominated flame retardants, polybrominated biphenyls (PBB) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE).1

In the photonics world, cadmium is often used in quantum dots (QDs), which are used, for example, as spectral emitters in displays. While it was originally less straightforward to create cadmium-free QDs for some colors, it can be done. One company that specializes in this type of QD is Nanoco (Manchester, England; LSE: NANO); the new RoHS directive ban of cadmium from TVs and displays should be a boon to the company, as evidenced by Nanoco's response to the directive. (Note: there are many other photonics uses for QDs that use only minuscule quantities of QDs and are, in addition, research-oriented and not for consumer uses. These applications can benefit from cadmium-containing QDs without worry.)

"This is a much-needed decision, which will provide market certainty as to the end date of cadmium use in TVs and displays, with immediate effect for lighting," says Michael Edelman, Nanoco's CEO. "The European Commission is putting the health of consumers first and removing deadly cadmium from these household products in an expedited timeframe. Throughout the RoHS evaluation process, Nanoco and other leading companies have advocated against prolonging the use of cadmium -- particularly given that safe and highly viable alternatives are already a success in the market and being quickly adopted by leading global manufacturers. With this ruling, the end of cadmium is truly in sight. Responsible display manufacturers developing new products will need to start preparing now for the ban in 2019."

In addition to RoHS, other global standards also protect against cadmium's dangers. The IEEE 1680 standard limits cadmium to <100 parts per million (ppm), stating further that good environmental practice is <50 ppm, with zero cadmium added deliberately. According to IEEE, "The standards provide clear and consistent performance criteria for the design of electronic products, providing an opportunity to secure market recognition for efforts to reduce the environmental impact of electronic products."

"Cadmium-based technology has been a nonstarter from the beginning," Edelman says. "This is a failed technology that has been abandoned by leading international display manufacturers and rejected by consumers. Data shows that nearly 519 million wide-color-gamut (WCG) displays were sold globally in 2016. Of that number, fewer than 400,000 products (or 0.08% of the market) containing cadmium were sold. Multiple cadmium-free technologies are widely available (including QLED, OLED, advanced phosphor, and enhanced color filter) from market-leading suppliers such as Samsung, Merck, Dow, and others for the fast growing WCG display market. This competition already ensures that market requirements for high color performance, energy efficiency, and cost are being effectively met."




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