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LCD Screens Do Grow on Trees

Posted on June 22nd, 2016 by in New Materials & Applications

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By Ken Klapproth used with permission. (Derivative work from [1] and [2]) [CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons and Wallcoo.net

For one advanced materials company, money apparently does grow on trees.

The Internet is full of “get rich quick” schemes – some not involving the inheritance of millions from an African royal family. Most that cross my in-box are summarily deleted. One recently caught my attention however because it was not only newsworthy by two reputable sources, but also tripped my technical “geek radar” involving the application of advanced materials.

The good folks over at The Motley Fool first caught my attention concerning Rayonier Advanced Materials Inc. with an article on the company’s record strong month in earnings. Capital Market Laboratories also published a more in-depth analysis showing the company out performing the S&P 500 on several metrics including P/E ratio, profit margin, operating margin, and return on assets. Both agree that the company has a healthy financial performance and is driving profitability.

What really piqued my engineering interest however was their product line and its end markets. Rayonier Advanced Materials is a supplier of high-purity cellulose specialty products – made primarily from trees. While applications range from the things you might expect like food, cosmetics, filters, or disposable diapers, plastics and digital display screens also among the offerings. The company reports that their acetate product is the only wood-based cellulose specialty that is used in the manufacture of LCD screens – the demand for which seems to continually be growing.

Interested to understand more about how acetate is used in the manufacture of LCD screens, I invested some quality time on YouTube:

One of the prized properties of cellulose acetate as a thin film is its excellent transparency. Cellulose acetate is used in clear tapes, protective glasses, wrapping materials for foods, and even the “see through” windows found on food packaging containers. The film can be used in creation of the polarizing films used to orient the back light in LCD displays as an alternative to the etched glass described in the video around the 55 second mark. Coming from trees – a renewable resource – it’s easy to understand why the company is performing so well.

Despite the old adage that “money doesn’t grow on trees”, it appears that Rayonier Advanced Materials has found a way to come close. It’s encouraging to not only see a company that is doing well, but furthering the use of renewable resources in the things we use day to day. Think of trees the next time you send a text message on your smart phone.

What renewable resources go into the products manufactured by your company? Tell us about your quest for unconventional knowledge and what it could mean for the future of your products or companies. Share your thoughts in the comments section below and don’t forget to follow us on your favorite social media channel.

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