Portland State PhD invents a cleaner route to integrated circuits

September 29, 2010 at 6:58 pm Leave a comment

This story came to my attention by way of the Sept/Oct issue of The Nexus, the newsletter put out by the American Chemical Society’s Green Chemistry Institute (ACS-GCI). Briefly, it tells the story of Dr. Nabil Mistkawi, a recent recipient of a Ph.D. in chemistry from Portland State University (and also an employee of the Intel Corporation) and his invention of a new, more environmentally-friendly method for making semiconductors. To quote the article, Dr. Mistkawi …

“has invented a one-of-a-kind chemical formulation that enables sub-50 nanometer (nm) process technology for advanced microprocessors manufacturing. This novel and environmentally friendly chemical formulation saves Intel tens of millions of dollars annually.”

You can read a longer version of this story in Nanotechnology Now (July 29, 2010). And, if you were surprised that “clean” industries like hi-tech electronics manufacturing cause environmental problems, check out this article from the 7 October 2004 issue of Nature: “Semiconductor Industry: Chipping In“. The article begins:

The production of silicon chips is big business, but with success have come environmental concerns. Geoff Brumfiel meets the people helping the industry to clean up its act.

On the face of it, there is nothing cleaner than a semiconductor manufacturing plant. Dust inside is kept to a few particles per cubic metre to prevent it from clogging up the microcircuits as they are assembled. Workers wear bunny-suits to keep hair and flakes of skin from polluting the environment, and water used in manufacturing is filtered so that it is far cleaner than the water most of us drink.

But even though the working environment is pristine, it’s still not exactly eco-friendly. “The reality of a fabrication plant is that it’s a huge chemical factory,” says Gerald Marcyk, a retired director for research at chip manufacturer Intel. Highly toxic elements, such as arsenic and phosphorus, are used to alter the electrical properties of semiconducting materials. Volatile organic solvents are sprayed onto silicon wafers to remove waste when they are etched with circuit patterns. And the operation of a single plant consumes thousands of megawatt hours in electricity and generates millions of gallons of waste water each day.”

rest of article

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Entry filed under: In the News.

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