COLLEGE PARK, Md. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Every day, Americans throw away more than 350,000 cell phones and 130,000 computers, making electronics the fastest-growing garbage producer. Many of the gadgets we use contain toxic lead and are polluting the environment when they reach landfills. Scientists have developed a safer material for those devices.
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Each year, more than 300 million electronic devices are thrown out. Many still contain a material called PZT. It's more than 40 percent lead. It can end up in a landfill and create a toxic environment.
Now, material scientists at the University of Maryland have developed a new lead-free, piezoelectric material for electronic devices ranging from airbag sensors to inkjet printers
"We found a material where it doesn't contain lead, and by mixing the right type of chemicals into it, it exhibits the properties just as good as PZT," Ichrio Takeuchi, Ph.D., a material scientist at the University of Maryland in College Park, Md., told Ivanhoe.
To make the material, tiny samples of different materials are shaped into a puck-like piece. A laser beam blasts apart the pucks, causing a mist of a different molecules and chemicals. The combination of materials is then tested until a new lead-free material is made.
"PZT is one of the only places left where we haven't been able to replace it, because there are no other materials that can perform the same duty, but now we think potentially this material can," Dr. Takeuchi said.
The new material is easy to make, withstands higher temperatures than traditional PZT material and is completely safe no matter where it ends up.
Products with the new material could hit the market in five years.
The Materials Research Society and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.-USA, contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.