Imec and semiconductor partners target greener chip manufacturing
Nanoelectronics research and innovation center, imec, says that it has managed to pool together stakeholders from the semiconductor value chain – from companies such as Apple and Microsoft, to suppliers, including ASM, Kurita, SCREEN and Tokyo Electron – to participate in its Sustainable Semiconductor Technologies and Systems (SSTS) research program.
The program was set up last year as part of imec’s sustainability efforts to support the semiconductor industry reducing its carbon footprint. imec says in a press release that the addition of these new partners enables a holistic approach – leveraging 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.
“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 maximize its impact,” states Lars-Åke Ragnarsson, Program Director SSTS.
With its SSTS program, imec is calling upon the whole semiconductor value chain to join forces to cut back on the semiconductor industry’s environmental footprint. It combines the research and innovation center's 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 program last year. Now additional major system companies like Microsoft have joined the program.
The program assesses the environmental impact of new technologies, identifies high-impact problems and defines greener semiconductor manufacturing solutions.