Corning Develops Metal-Free LCD Glass

A heavy metal-free glass developed by Corning could go a long way towards trimming production costs at a time when prices for the super-thin screens used for LCD sets are already falling in the marketplace. Corning said its Eagle XG glass is the first in the LCD industry to be completely free of arsenic and other heavy metals such as barium and antimony, as well as halides like chlorine and fluorine which can produce potentially harmful byproducts during manufacturing.

Corning is somewhat modestly calling the innovation one of the most significant glass inventions in a generation. Peter Bocko, director of Display Technology Research at the Corning, N.Y. company, told the Associated Press the breakthrough "reduces the overall cost -- all the way from digging stuff out of the ground to the end-of-life [proper disposal] of the display."

Similar to an earlier Corning product, the glass is also free of antimony and barium, and halides (chemical compounds of halogens) like chlorine. Corning reportedly is the world's largest maker of LCD glass.

Bocko said arsenic is "a magic element" when it comes to melting high-performance glass to rid it of bubbles. "Even an exquisitely small bubble of glass in an LCD screen can actually destroy it and you have to throw it out," he said. One way to eliminate bubbles is to add elements that make the bubbles come out earlier in the progression, or absorb the gas as the glass is being cooled.

But about a decade ago, Bocko said in published reports, Corning shifted away from looking for a "magic bullet" to eliminate bubbling to, instead, searching for a fundamental way to prevent the bubbles altogether. More than a decade later they apparently found a way. About 38 percent of Corning's reported $4.58 billion in revenue last year came from LCD glass. Overall, LCD screens accounted for slightly more than 10 percent of the global TV market in 2005, according to analyst firm DisplaySearch.