Semiconductor Pollution and Possible Solutions

by Kushal, Professional Content Writer at Consegic Business Intelligence

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No electronic device can exist without a semiconductor! Even AI would have been science fiction if it wasn’t for semiconductors. Semiconductors are tiny chips that act as the brains of the electronic device. ‘Semiconductors are the most important technology of our time’, said Jensen Huang, CEO of NVIDIA.

Semiconductors are made from silicon, germanium, and gallium arsenide. Organic Semiconductors are made up of pi-bonded molecules or polymers comprising hydrocarbons and other heteroatoms like Sulphur, nitrogen, and oxygen. According to the Consegic Business Intelligence report, the organic semiconductor market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 22.3% from 2023 to 2031. Organic semiconductors are more environmentally friendly and less costly to produce as they are made of polymers. 

The production of chips requires up to 4 months from design. The production of semiconductors requires large amounts of electricity and fossil fuels in the form of raw materials. Fabs i.e., semiconductor manufacturing plants can use up to 100 megawatts per hour of electrical capacity

The manufacturing of semiconductors adversely affects the environment. The semiconductor industry solely contributes to about 31% of global greenhouse emissions. Several hazardous gases like HF, HCl, Cl2, Pb, and As are emitted in the process. Furthermore, volatile organic compounds(VOC) are released with these waste gases. 

The water also plays a crucial role in semiconductor production, as it is needed for wafer cleaning. The semiconductor fabrication requires numerous cleaning processes. Any impurities and contamination in the water may lead to defects in the product. A large production facility uses up to 4.8 million gallons of pure water daily, but to produce this water approximately 8 gallons of city water is required. After several processes this becomes contaminated and waste water. This water should be treated, disposed of properly, or reused in the same processes again after purification.  

There are several initiatives to reduce the impact of the semiconductor industry on the environment to create a balance between sustainability and technological advancements simultaneously. TSMC, a leading semiconductor manufacturing company reused 67% of its total water consumption. Another giant, NXC recycled 18% of its total water consumption. An alternative to water usage is to use ultrasonic cleaning technology to clean semiconductor components by using high-frequency sound waves. 

With the growing need for semiconductors across several industries, the production of semiconductors is at a whopping growth, which also leads us to take proper steps for the management of waste generated during these processes.