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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge

 

Peng Wang

A life cycle assessment of mobile phone components

Peng Wang

A life cycle assessment of mobile phone components

Technological innovation will play a critical role in achieving sustainable development, but it could become a double-edged sword without appropriate guidance. In order to utilise it correctly and effectively, we have to understand the environmental impact of technological innovation, its commercialising process and the effect of regulation. 

This study explores some important environmental assessment methodologies such as life cycle assessment (LCA) and key environmental performance indicators (KEPIs), and analyses their applications to two flat panel display technologies – liquid crystal display (LCD) and organic light-emitting diode (OLED). To compensate for the limitations of LCA and KEPIs, this study develops a simple qualitative assessment tool – SETA in combination with LCA and KEPIs, summarises the environmental position of LCD and OLED.

Based on Maine and Gainsey’s model of commercialising generic advanced materials technology, this study tests the model on two case studies: the history of LCD development in Sharp and OLED in CDT. While the successful experience of Sharp demonstrates the challenges and opportunities of advanced materials technology diffusion, it also sheds light on the development strategy of CDT, in which OLED technology is still at an early stage of its development.

Sustainability is a pressing issue, while technological innovation is guided by the market through a time-consuming matching process. Introducing regulations can and should play a more important role on leading technological change towards sustainability. This study discusses Ashford’s model of regulatory influence on technological change, then analyses it in a case study to demonstrate its effectiveness and necessity.

With the understanding that sustainability is a complex and dynamic domain, this study tries to integrate environmental, economic, technological and regulatory aspects into the same case studies – LCD and OLED, in order to give a more holistic picture for decision making, and also suggest that many more studies need to be done in each of these fields.