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To improve viewing pleasure, companies have developed television and tablet screens that include quantum dots to enhance brightness and color. Some quantum dots are made with potentially harmful metals, which could leach into the environment when the device is discarded.

But other TVs made with less hazardous nanomaterials require more energy to make.

Today, researchers report preliminary results suggesting that under simulated landfill conditions, quantum dots can leach out of devices. But because this happens in such tiny amounts, the team says that in the grand scheme of things, it might make sense to use the more toxic quantum dots that are made with a more eco-friendly process.

“In just the past decade, engineered nanomaterials have been incorporated into so many consumer products,” said Yuqiang Bi, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Paul Westerhoff, Ph.D.

The researchers are still working to precisely quantify the exact amount of leached materials in the solutions. But based on studies done so far, Bi says, “we aren’t seeing huge amounts of leaching, especially when we are talking about realistic disposal methods, such as the chunked up electronics or whole product. If you dispose of a nice TV, we don’t expect too much release of the cadmium.” The released amount is on the order of nanograms per cubic centimeter, far less than the threshold that is considered dangerous.

Published in the September 2017 Edition of American Recycler News