In order to make chip production more sustainable, the European Research Center IMEC in Leuven, Belgium, launched the “Sustainable Semiconductor Technologies and Systems” (SSTS) program. The goal is to find ways to reduce energy and resource consumption in semiconductor production. Apple is the first manufacturer to participate in the program. The company has been publishing Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) for all of its major products for years.
On the other hand, IT product manufacturers want their products to meet CO2 standards.2-neutral. On the other hand, the production of semiconductor components is very energy-intensive, consuming resources and releasing highly harmful gases to the climate such as nitrogen trifluoride (NF).3). To make the production, development and supply of semiconductor chips more sustainable, there is a lack of transparent and comparable data. This is what SSSS aims to provide.
Manufacturing is the problem
Mobile devices like smartphones and laptops consume very little electricity for obvious reasons. For many mobile devices, more than half of the emissions harmful to the environment are attributable to the manufacturing stage and only a small portion is attributable to the use stage. For this reason, and also to avoid electronic waste, it is important to use devices with semiconductor components for as long as possible. Mandatory updates and optimization can help. However, billions of new products and more than a trillion chips continue to be produced each year. This in turn leads to the production of several million tons of e-waste.
As components of the ecological footprint of chip manufacturing, IMEC cites the following:
- Raw materials extraction and raw materials processing
- The use of water, electricity and gas, including particularly polluting gases such as trifluoromethane (CHF3) and tetrafluoromethane (CF4) used in drilling, which are reduced by reducing PFCs.
The Design and Technology Shared Optimization (DTCO) framework aims to facilitate the sustainable manufacturing of chips in the future, including DRAM, flash chips for RAM, SSDs, and memory cards.
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