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ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF TEDLAR PVF FILM

FOR USE IN PHOTOVOLTAIC MODULES




Krieger, T., Roekens-Guibert, H.
DuPont
1007 Market St. Wilmington, DE 19898
(p) (302) 774-1026, (f) (302) 774-2457, (e) todd.m.krieger@usa.dupont.com


ABSTRACT: Solar power offers a greener alternative to traditional electricity generation. To quantify the benefits
of solar power, life cycle analysis of photovoltaic (PV) modules is necessary, requiring environmental impacts of all
materials used in their production. Therefore, a cradle-to-gate LCA for the production of Tedlar polyvinylfluoride
(PVF) film has been generated. Tedlar PVF films are preferred as the backing sheet for PV modules due to their
excellent strength, weather resistance, UV resistance, and moisture barrier properties. These properties significantly
improve module life, allowing module warranties up to 25 years. Requiring 317 MJ of primary energy per kg for its
production, Tedlar PVF film contributes less than 1.5% of the entire PV modules embodied energy. Less than
eight months of extended module life justifies using Tedlar film in lieu of other backing sheet materials. Other
environmental impacts are also relatively insignificant compared to the PV module and roughly in proportion to the
impacts of energy use. The global warming potential of Tedlar, 23.3 kg CO2 eq. per kg, contributes less than 2% of
the total GWP for a photovoltaic module. Tedlar PVF film imparts minimal environmental impact in the production
of a photovoltaic module while significantly reducing the overall burden of solar power by increasing module life.
Keywords: Tedlar PVF Film, Backsheet, Life Cycle Analysis


1 INTRODUCTION

While pollution-free electricity is a product of a
photovoltaic (PV) module, the energy and environmental
impacts of producing the module itself are not
inconsequential. Life cycle analysis has been used in
many studies to determine the energy payback time
associated with the manufacture of a PV module [1,2,9],
with a key feature being the life of a module. The focus
of most studies has been on the manufacture of PV cells -
as they represent the majority of the energy and
environmental impacts of a PV module. However, this
study discusses the impact of a backsheet material to a
modules environmental and energy performance as seen
through its cradle-to-gate impact for manufacture, but
more importantly, through its ability to extend the life
span of the module.
Tedlar TPT backsheets play a key role in
sustaining the life of a PV module. Their excellent
strength, weather resistance, UV resistance, and moisture
barrier properties allow for warranties up to 25 years. To
date, the environmental impacts of Tedlar film used in
PV modules have been approximated via comparison to
similar products. A detailed analysis of the production
process at DuPont and evaluation of raw material feeds
was performed to quantify both the embodied energy and
the environmental impacts from cradle-to-gate for the
manufacture of Tedlar cast film. These impacts are put
in perspective with those of an entire PV module with
both virgin and recycled silicon.
Energy use is typically the focus for the
environmental impacts of PV module components in life
cycle analysis studies since the purpose of a module is, in
fact, to provide energy. However, fluorinated products
typically raise concerns with global warming potential
and ozone depletion potential. This study shows that
Tedlar does not follow the typical trends of other
fluoropolymers, as environmental impacts of Tedlar
tend to mirror those associated with energy use.


2 METHODOLOGY

2.1 LCA Basis
Raw material use rates and energy requirements are
quantified throughout the supply chain, incorporating
efficiency, distribution, and conversion losses associated
with electrical supply. Allocations for co-products along
the supply chain are often required and are addressed
individually upon their own merits Some are allocated
by mass, some by avoidance, some by assigning no
burden to the co-product, and some by their energy
value. Current literature often provides multiple options
for the modeling of any particular intermediate. Where
applicable, actual plant data is used. When this is not
available, literature sources consistent with the scope of
this paper are used, such as Stanford Research Institute
studies, and LCA database modules from Ecoinvent or
others available in SimaPro life cycle software.
The cumulative energy demand V1.1 impact
assessment from Ecoinvent 2000 is used to calculate
the primary energy demand [5,7]. Both non-renewable
and renewable fuels are included. Modifications to
account for U.S. based electricity and fuel values have
been made where appropriate. Other environmental
impacts are calculated via the CML 2 baseline 2000 V2.1
impact assessment available in SimaPro. Updates for
the global warming potential values were made to agree
with IPCC 2001 values [12].

2.1 Module Basis
A typical Tedlar TPT backsheet consists of a 1.5
mil Tedlar PVF film laminated to each side of a 3 mil
sheet of PET film. For this study, a 152Wp module
consisting of 72 (125mm x 125mm) PV cells is used as
the base module as modeled by Jungbluth, in the
Ecoinvent process [7]. The area of the module is
roughly 10% larger than the total PV cell area, resulting
in 1.25m
2
of backsheet per module. PV cells generating
higher voltage potential may require thicker backsheets.
In these applications, the PET thickness is increased to as
much as 10 mil. Tedlar layers are expected to decrease
in thickness in the future, but are kept at 1.5mil for this
study. Oceanic transport of the Tedlar is included since
the lamination step and most current PV module
applications are European.

3 TEDLAR PVF FILM

3.1 Tedlar film Production
Tedlar PVF film is produced at the DuPont Yerkes site
in Buffalo, N.Y. (gold) with raw materials from both
external sources (gray) and other DuPont plant sites (red)
See Figure 1.

Hydrogen
Fluoride
Solvent
PVF
Vinyl Fluoride
Difluoroethane
HFC-152a
Acetylene
Tedlar
PVF Film
Tedlar OF
Dispersion
Titanium
Dioxide
Rec. Solv.
Fluorspar

Figure 1: Tedlar Process Supply Chain

Vinyl fluoride monomer from DuPonts Louisville
site is polymerized at high pressure in a continuous
process to form polyvinylfluoride polymer. The polymer
is dried and packaged in totes for use in the Tedlar PVF
film process.
PVF polymer is mixed in a solvent with titanium
dioxide and other minor additives to form a dispersion.
The dispersion is coalesced into a melt in an extruder and
formed into a web through a hopper die. The melt is
quenched in a water/solvent bath and then stretched in
both the machine direction and the transverse direction
and dried in a tenter frame drying oven. Solvent is
recovered from both the quench station and the dryer and
recycled via distillation. The film is adhesion treated, slit
to width, and packaged for shipment to a lamination
facility. Some film is flaked and recycled to the
dispersion to minimize yield loss.

3.2 Tedlar PVF Film Energy & Impact Assessments
Plant data from 2005 were used to determine energy
and raw material use rates for the process steps from
polymerization to dispersion, and on to casting, treatment
and finished product. Tedlar PVF film production
requires 317 MJ/kg Tedlar of primary energy; i.e.
energy associated with all facets of the supply chain
taken back to the ground. About half of the primary
energy is associated with steam and electricity
requirements at the Yerkes facility as shown in Figure 2.
Steam is supplied from a local facility via a natural gas
fired boiler. The combined cycle co-generation capability
of the local facility is not currently used due to natural
gas pricing.
Other environmental impacts, for the most part,
mirror those associated with energy production. Global
warming potential is 23.3 kg CO
2
eq. per kg Tedlar.
Actual CO
2
accounts for 75% of these emissions, while
difluoroethane, HFC-152a, accounts for 22%. The
remainder is mainly methane and N
2
O. Toxicity potential
is expressed as 18.2-kg eq. of 1,4-dichlorobenzene eq.
Roughly half is associated with energy production.
Chromium VI and other less significant emissions in
acetylene production account for an additional 35% of
the toxicity impact for Tedlar PVF film. Hydrogen
fluoride emissions in several process steps account for
11% of the toxicity impact.

0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%
ODP
Eutroph.
Air Acidification
Toxicity
GWP
Primary Energy
Acetylene HF HFC-152A
VF PVF TiO2
Solvent PVF Dispersion Tedlar Film
317 MJ
23.3 kg CO2 eq.
18.2 kg 1,4 DB eq.
0.15 kg SO2 eq.
0.0082 kg PO4-- eq.
1.62e-6 kg CFC-11 eq.

Figure 2: Tedlar Film Impacts by process step

Air acidification, at 0.15 kg SO
2
eq. is dominated by SO
x

emissions in the manufacture of sulfuric acid for HF
production. Eutrophication and ozone depletion potential
(ODP) are minimal at 0.0082 kg phosphate eq. and
1.62e-6 kg CFC-11 eq., respectively. Almost all ODP is
associated with energy production or transport.


4 PHOTOVOLTAIC MODULE

A photovoltaic module consists of many different
materials ranging from silicon wafer PV cells to
aluminum frames to glass, and, Tedlar TPT
backsheets. Several authors have estimated the primary
energy for module production including Alsema [1,2],
Knapp [9], and Jungbluth [7] with various differences
due mainly to cell technology, wafer thickness, and
inclusion of the aluminum frame. The Jungbluth model
of a pc-Si photovoltaic panel available through the
Ecoinvent database is used as the basis for this study.
Jungbluth uses a module for polyvinylidine chloride as a
surrogate for Tedlar. This portion of the model was
replaced with the DuPont Tedlar PVF film plant data.

4.1 PV Module Energy & Impact Assessment
Each module requires 4656 MJ of primary energy for
production, equivalent to 2980 kWh-el / kWp at 35%
electricity conversion efficiency. The manufacture of the
PV cells accounts for 83%, with aluminum and glass
accounting for an additional 10%. At a use rate of 0.16
kg per module plus 7% yield loss due to trim losses,
Tedlar imparts less than 1.5% of the total energy
burden for a module.
0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%
ODP
Eutroph.
Air Acidification
Toxicity
GWP
Primary Energy
PV Cell Aluminum Glass EVA
Tedlar PET Film Module Energy Other
4656 MJ
221 kg CO2 eq.
154 kg 1,4 DB eq.
1.07 kg SO2 eq.
0.20 kg PO4-- eq.
3.1e-5 kg CFC-11 eq.

0% 20% 40% 60% 80% 100%
ODP
Eutroph.
Air Acidification
Toxicity
GWP
Primary Energy
PV Cell Aluminum Glass EVA
Tedlar PET Film Module Energy Other
2088 MJ
104 kg CO2 eq.
91 kg 1,4 DB eq.
0.54 kg SO2 eq.
0.084 kg PO4-- eq.
1.3e-5 kg CFC-11 eq.
Figure 4: PV Module Recycled PV Cells. Impacts by Figure 3: PV Module Impacts by Material
(152Wp module with frame) Material (152Wp module with frame)

Global warming potential, like almost all impact
areas for PV module manufacture, is also dominated by
PV cell manufacture at 80%. The total impact of 221-kg
CO
2
eq. consists of 204 kg of actual CO
2
, showing that
most of the global warming potential is associated with
energy consumption. In fact, less than 1 kg CO
2
eq. is
due to fluorochemical (mainly HFC-152a) emissions in
the Tedlar supply chain.
Several assumptions must be made with regard to module
performance and solar irradiation as shown in Table I.
Additional environmental impacts associated with PV
module operation are added, including those associated
with array support and cabling as well as inverters. Array
support and cabling add 125 MJ and 7.6 kg CO2 eq. per
152Wp module [2]. Inverters add 294 MJ and 19 kg
CO2 eq per module [2]. Inverters are assumed to last 15
years. Impacts to other categories from arrays and
inverters are added in proportion to the energy
consumption in relation to that of an entire PV module.
Human toxicity impacts are not represented as clearly
using LCA since the global approach of LCA can mis-
represent the local effects from materials and energy
produced at various locations. In addition, relating the
toxicity of one material to another is highly complicated
due to the different modes of toxicity and acute versus
chronic effects. However, using the CML 2000 V2.1
Impact Assessment, the human toxicity impact of
manufacturing a PV module is measured at 154 kg 1,4-
dichlorbenzene eq. The impact is spread among
polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) (32%),
chromium VI (25%), and dioxins (20%). Aluminum
production contributes close to 30% of the impact despite
the typical dominance from PV cell manufacture, while
Tedlar contributes less than 2%. Virtually all of the
toxicity impact with a PV module is associated with the
electricity used in its manufacture.

TABLE I: Assumptions - PV Module vs. Electricity
Assumption Middle Europe Average U.S Source
Solar Irradiation 1000 kWh/m
2
/yr 1825 kWh/m
2
/yr [2], [9]
Module Efficiency 13.7% 13.7% [2]
Module Perf. Ratio 75% 75% [11]
Module Life span 10 or 25 years 10 or 25 years
Electricity Model Ecoinvent UCTE U.S. Average [5], [8]
Electrical Efficiency 31.2% 33.6% [5], [8]


Under these assumptions, a 152Wp PV module
produces 130 238 kWh of electricity per year
depending on the solar irradiation, (3250 kWh middle
Europe and 5950 kWh U.S. for 25-yr). Figure 5
compares the impacts of a 25-yr life PV module, a 10-yr
life PV module, and the equivalent amount of electricity
generated through traditional means for both middle
Europe and the United States.
Other environmental impacts as well as those
discussed above are shown in Figure 3 as a function of
material used in the manufacture of a PV cell. The
impacts for each material are taken back to the ground.

0.0 4.0 8.0 12.0 16.0 20.0
ODP
Eutroph.
Air Acidification
Human Toxicity
GWP
Energy
Impact with respect to 25-yr PV module
Elect - Middle Europe Elect - U.S. Ave
PV Module 10-yr Life PV Module 25-yr Life
56
44

4.2 Recycled PV module
A recent study by Mller, et. al. [11] has shown the
impact of a PV module can be substantially reduced by
recycling the silicon. Currently, recycling is only
performed on a pilot level, but if growth follows the
projected trends, PV module recycling will likely be
required despite the current lack of infrastructure. Mller,
et.al. suggest that two-thirds of the energy associated
with PV cell manufacture can be avoided through
recycle. This study makes that single adjustment to
identify the impacts of a recycled 152Wp module,
assuming all other parts of the replacement module are
new See Figure 4.

Figure 5: PV module vs. Grid Electricity.
4.3 PV Module Life Span Impacts


The impacts for each are displayed as a ratio with the
impact from a 25-yr module. For example, the primary
energy to supply 5950 kWh electricity in the United
States is 12 times greater from the U.S. grid than a 25-yr-
The environmental aspects of PV modules compare
favorably to traditional methods of generating electricity
over the life span of the module.
life module. A 25-yr-life PV module can pay back the
energy required for its manufacture over 12 times
assuming U.S. based electricity and irradiation. Two and
a half 10-yr modules are necessary to provide the same
amount of electricity as a 25-yr module (no silicon
recycle). Note: Both the human toxicity and air
acidification values for U.S. based electricity exceed the
scale of the graph.
The impact of a 10-yr-life module is about 2.3 times
worse for all categories: reduced from the expected 2.5
times due to the inclusion of the inverter. The human
toxicity data for the U.S. based electricity is mainly from
chromium VI emissions associated with coal [8]. PV
modules used in southern Europe would perform 1.7
times better than those would for middle Europe due to
increased solar irradiation of 1700 kWh/m
2
/yr.


5 KEY COMPONENTS AND RAW MATERIALS

5.1 Electricity and Fuel Values
The Michigan State University (MSU) report by S.
Kim and B. Dale is used as the basis for U.S. electricity
for the Tedlar PVF film processes [8]. The report
breaks down the impacts by U.S. grid, identifying use
rate and heat values for each fuel type in each region.
Use rates by fuel type were accepted, but heat values for
natural gas, fuel oil, and uranium were modified (See
Table II). Coal heat values matched U.S. Department of
Energy data by region within 1% and were, therefore,
accepted. Density conversion factors account for the
differences in heat values for natural gas and fuel oil. The
LHV for uranium was modified to match that used in
Ecoinvent 2000 data. Other than fuel values and their
impact on use rates, all emissions, efficiencies and raw
material use rates were taken from the Kim report.

TABLE II: U.S. Based Fuel Lower Heating Values
Fuel LHV (MJ/kg) Basis
Coal Varies by region [8]
Natural Gas 48.0 0.61 SG [8]
Fuel Oil 41.0 0.95 SG [8]
Uranium 451,000 [5]


Electricity for European production is based on the
electricity models from Ecoinvent [5]. For the PV
module, most electricity is per the Ecoinvent data.
Only the Tedlar supply chain (See Figure 1) was
modified where appropriate to U.S. based electricity.

5.2 Vinyl Fluoride
Vinyl fluoride (VF) production is modeled based on
production at DuPonts Louisville, KY site.
Difluoroethane (HFC-152a) is reacted to yield vinyl
fluoride and hydrogen fluoride.

H
3
C CHF
2
H
2
C = CH
2
F + HF

The co-product HF is allocated by HF avoidance as
described in section 5.4. Transport for HFC-152a is
included. The process energy requirements for the VF
facility are 8.5 MJ, 75% from natural gas. The total
process energy from cradle-to-gate for VF production
(60.7 MJ/kg) is less than that for HFC-152a production
due to the HF avoidance credit.

5.3 Difluoroethane (HFC-152a)
A low pressure, liquid-phase, acetylene-based
process was used to model the production of HFC-152a
using a BF
3
catalyst.

H-CC-H + 2 HF H
3
C CHF
2


HF yield is assumed to be 95% while acetylene yield
is estimated at 92.4% as used in a 1988 DuPont economic
evaluation of HFC-152a manufacturing options. Total
process energy consumption at the HFC-152a facility is
4.9 MJ, mostly from electricity. The catalyst and other
raw materials (lime) contribute less than 1% to energy
consumption.
This route requires less than half the process energy
of the vinyl chloride route as reported by Krieger [10],
mainly due to reduced steam requirements. The cradle-
to-gate process energy for HFC-152a production via
acetylene is 63.4 MJ/kg.

5.4 Hydrogen Fluoride (HF)
The Ecoinvent model for HF production was
modified to reflect a higher use rate of fluorspar and
sulfuric acid and to include electricity and natural gas use
rates. Fluorspar consumption is increased to 2.053 kg per
kg HF, while sulfuric acid use is increased to 5.5 kg per
kg HF. The sulfuric acid use rate is much closer to the
values in an HF model by ETH-ESU [6]. U.S. average
electricity was used to simulate a coal-centric electricity
grid expected in China. Transportation of the fluorspar
and sulfuric acid is included.
A second model for HF is used as an avoidance
stream during the production of vinyl fluoride. The co-
product HF from the VF production at Louisville is used
on-site for Freon-22 production in lieu of additional HF
produced and shipped from DuPonts Laporte, TX site.
Therefore, changes to electricity and transportation in the
avoidance model are required. The LaPorte site uses a
natural gas co-generation facility to provide its
electricity. Oceanic transport for the Fluorspar is
included.

5.5 Fluorspar
A modified version of the Ecoinvent unit process
for fluorspar is used. This model assumes fluorspar
manufactured in China. Energy consumption from the
original ecoinvent model was changed to U.S. based
energy to reflect a higher use of coal and lower use of
nuclear energy in electricity. Oceanic transport is not
included since the HF is also produced in China in this
supply chain.

5.6 PET Film
The Bousted PET Film A model available in
SimaPro is used to represent both PET used in the
Tedlar TPT backsheet and for PET film used as a
competitive product for PV backsheets [13]. The
competitive product would likely have higher energy
consumption due to vapor deposition treatments and
other processing for PV applications.

5.7 Solvent
Acetic acid and Dimethylamine (DMA) are reacted
without the aide of a catalyst to form dimethylacetimde,
DMAc. Data from the SRI report on DMAc production is
used for raw material and energy use rates [4]. Although
DuPont produces methylamines, the SRI report was used
for transparency, particularly since the impact of DMA in
the Tedlar study is minimal. Emissions were estimated
by assuming the yield losses of acetic acid, DMA, and
DMAc are incinerated, yielding 0.15 kg CO
2
and 0.04 kg
NO
x
per kg DMAc produced.

5.8 Dimethylamine
Data from the SRI report on methylamine production
is used [3]. Although DuPont produces methylamines,
the SRI report was used for transparency, as explained
for DMAc. Methanol and ammonia are reacted to form
monomethylyamine, dimethylamine, and trimethylamine.
Raw materials were allocated on a stoichiometric basis
with MMA, DMA, and TMA on a 40/50/10 product
weight ratio. Energy consumption is allocated on a mass
basis. Emissions were allocated via stoichiometry and
estimated from yield losses identified in the SRI report.
Product yields for MeOH and NH
3
are 99% and 99.5%,
respectively. The methanol yield loss is represented
through conversion to DMA, followed by incineration,
resulting in 0.02 kg CO
2
and 0.01 kg NO
x
per kg DMA
emissions. DMA air emissions in 2003 for DuPonts
Belle facility were less than 0.1 g / kg produced.

5.8 Acetylene, Methanol, Acetic Acid, Oxygen, TiO
2

Ecoinvent data modules for acetylene, methanol,
acetic acid, oxygen, and titanium dioxide (TiO
2
) were
used with modification to U.S. based electricity and fuel
sources [5,8]. The supply chain assumes China sourcing
for acetylene, but a coal-centric U.S. based electricity
source is used in the absence of Asia-Pacific data. The
methanol and acetic acid modules have limited impact
through the use of the solvent, DMAc. Although DuPont
supplies titanium dioxide, the Ecoinvent data is used
for transparency.


6 CONCLUSIONS

The magnitude of the PV module primary energy
shows the impact associated with Tedlar film is trivial
at less than 1.5% of the total burden. However, the use of
the Tedlar TPT backsheet avoids the need to replace
PV modules as frequently. Competitors backsheets are
currently made from laminates of specially treated PET
film. These products typically have a warranty of 10
years as compared to the 25-year warranty for modules
with TPT backsheets. As a function of life span for a
PV module with a competitors backsheet, Table III
shows the life-span required for a TPT backsheet
module to pay for the additional energy required in its
manufacture for both virgin and recycled silicon
modules.
The difference in warranty suggests that modules
using a Tedlar TPT backsheet easily overcome these
energy payback times. Since the other environmental
impacts discussed in this paper are mainly due to energy
consumption and Tedlar PVF film does not attract more
than 2% for any, similar payback times would be
expected. For instance, to payback for global warming
potential as compared to a competitors 10-yr module,
the life span of a PV module with a Tedlar TPT
backsheet need only be 10.2 years.

Table III: Energy Payback Time (EPBT) for Modules
with Tedlar TPT Backsheets
Assumed Module Life with
Competitor's Backsheet, yr
10 15 20 25
EPBT for Tedlar PVF Film Backsheet, yr 10.1 15.2 20.2 25.3
EPBT for Tedlar PVF Film Backsheet -
Recycled PV Cells, yr
10.3 15.4 20.5 25.7
Total EP for Module with 25-yr life,
Tedlar PVF Film Backsheet, MJ
6930 3050 1110 -54


No additional burdens have been included for
installation of the modules. Due to the requirement for
multiple modules with the competitors backsheet,
installation burdens would only strengthen the case for
Tedlar PVF film.
Life cycle analysis from cradle-to-gate typically
misses the true benefits of a highly engineered product.
By including the life span of the PV-module, the
relatively high energy consumption for making Tedlar
PVF film is shown to be trivial compared to the energy
saved by reducing the frequency of module replacement.
Also, despite its fluorocarbon backbone, Tedlar PVF
film was shown to have minimal global warming
potential and ozone depletion potential beyond that
associated with energy consumption.
The properties of Tedlar PVF film used in PV
module backsheets offer longer life to PV modules,
which in turn, offer an energy payback up to 12 times
that required to manufacture the entire module and over
2.3 times that of a 10-yr-life module.


7 REFERENCES

[1] Alsema, E. A. 2000. Energy pay-back time and CO
2

emissions of PV systems. Progress in Photovoltaics:
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[2] Alsema, E., Wild-Schoten, M., 2005. The real
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[3] Arne, Michael. "Methyl amines from ammonia and
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[4] Bryan, Kathryn B. "N,N-Dimethylacetamide."
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[5] Ecoinvent Centre (2005): ecoinvent data v1.2, Final
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Dbendorf, Switzerland.

[6] Frischknecht et al., "ko-inventare von
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[8] Kim, S., Dale, B., Life cycle inventory information of
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[9] Knapp, K., Jester, T., Empirical investigation of the
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[10] Krieger, T., Bateman, D., Life Cycle Analysis for
Production of HFC-134a and HFC-152a, 2004. 2004
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[11] Muller, A., Wambach, K., Alsema, A. 2005. Life
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[12] Watson, P.T., et.al. IPCC Third Assessment Report:
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[13] www.plasticseurope.org. Ecoprofiles of Chemicals
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Tedlar and TPT are registered trademarks and
trademark of DuPont for its film and film layering
system applications.