Renewables

Targeting net-zero emissions for chip manufacturing

17th May 2022
Paige West

At Future Summits 2022, imec announces that its Sustainable Semiconductor Technologies and Systems (SSTS) research programme succeeded in bringing together stakeholders of the semiconductor value chain, from large system companies such as Apple and Microsoft, to suppliers, including ASM, Kurita, SCREEN and Tokyo Electron.

The programme was set up last year as part of imec’s sustainability efforts to support the semiconductor industry reducing its carbon footprint. The addition of these new partners enables a holistic approach, which leverages imec’s expertise and knowledge to cut the industry’s environmental impact.

The semiconductor industry is booming with a never-seen demand. As an integral part of our smart portable devices, IoT systems and compute infrastructure, chips are embedded in our everyday life. Semiconductor manufacturing, however, comes at a price. It requires large amounts of energy and water and creates hazardous waste. To tackle this problem, the entire supply chain needs to commit, and an ecosystem approach will be key. While system and fabless companies are already investing in decarbonising their supply chain and products, committing to be carbon neutral by 2030 or 2040, they typically lack accurate insight into the contribution of chip manufacturing of future technologies as there is limited life cycle analysis data available.

With its SSTS programme, imec calls upon the whole semiconductor value chain to join forces to cut back on the semiconductor industry’s environmental footprint. It combines imec’s strong partner ecosystem, insights in processing technology, infrastructure, and machinery to provide partners across the semiconductor value chain insight in the environmental impact of certain choices made at the chip technology’s definition and production phase. Apple was the first public partner to join hands with imec on the SSTS programme last year. Now additional major system companies like Microsoft have joined the programme.

The programme assesses the environmental impact of new technologies, identifies high-impact problems and defines greener semiconductor manufacturing solutions.

“Today there is a data gap concerning the environmental footprint of the fabrication of semiconductor integrated circuits (IC) for more advanced technologies. That’s why we’re assessing the environmental impact in a first step so we can make informed choices when we move to the next technology generations. Equipment, material and tool suppliers are key in the early phase plans; they can for example create more environmentally friendly processes and tools to solve high-impact problems in these future technologies. We are also talking to foundries to help verify and benchmark the results. By engaging with the entire semiconductor value chain in this way, our SSTS program can maximise its impact,” states Lars-Åke Ragnarsson, Programme Director SSTS.

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