The Environmental Cost of Computer Chips

Computer ChipComputer chips are made of a solid crystalline material, usually silicon. Semiconductor manufacturing is complex and may require several steps to complete the process, including design, crystal processing, wafer fabrication, final layering and cleaning, and assembly.

The production of every single six-inch silicon wafer uses the
following resources:

  • 3,200 cubic feet of bulk gases,
  • 22 cubic feet of hazardous gases,
  • 2,275 gallons of deionized water,
  • 20 pounds of chemicals, and
  • 285 kilowatt hours of electrical power.

And for every single six-inch silicon wafer manufactured, the following wastes are produced:

  • 25 pounds of sodium hydroxide,
  • 2,840 gallons of waste water, and
  • 7 pounds of miscellaneous hazardous wastes.

When you consider that Intel's Rio Rancho, New Mexico facility can process 5,000 eight-inch silicon wafers in a single week, the environmental costs are staggering.

CloudAir Pollutants

  • acid fumes
  • volatile organic compounds
  • toxic gases, including arsine

LakeWaste Stream Pollutants

  • deionized water
  • solvents
  • alkaline cleaning solutions
  • acids
  • photoresists
  • aqueous metals
  • waste etchants
  • waste aqueous developing solutions
  • waste acqueous metals
  • chromium
Alternatives: Principles for a Just and Sustainable Industry

Source: Intel Inside New Mexico, SouthWest Organizing Project, 1995. Graydon Larabee, Texas Instruments Fellow, 1993. EPA, 1995.

For more information, contact:

Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition

760 N. First Street

San Jose, CA 95112

Phone: (408) 287-6707

Fax: (408) 287-6771


AMP Section Name:Technology & Telecommunications
  • 192 Technology & Telecommunications

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