IBM today announced an innovative new semiconductor wafer reclamation process pioneered at its Burlington, Vermont manufacturing facility. The new process uses a specialized pattern removal technique to repurpose scrap semiconductor wafers -- thin discs of silicon material used to imprint patterns that make finished semiconductor chips for computers, mobile phones, video games, and other consumer electronics -- to a form used to manufacture silicon-based solar panels. The new process was recently awarded the "2007 Most Valuable Pollution Prevention Award" from The National Pollution Prevention Roundtable (NPPR).
Through this process, IBM is now able to more efficiently remove the intellectual property from the wafer surface, making these wafers available for sale to the solar cell industry, which needs the same silicon material to produce photovoltaic cells for solar panels. One of the challenges of the solar industry is a lack of silicon, making reclaimed silicon materials a great source of raw material for solar panels. Worldwide 250,000 wafers are used per day across the industry. IBM estimates that up to 3.3% of these started wafers are scrapped. In the course of the year, this amounts to approximately three million discarded wafers. Because the wafers contain intellectual property, most cannot be sent to outside vendors to reclaim and are crushed and sent to landfills, or melted down and resold.
Depending on how a specific solar cell manufacturer chooses to process a batch of wafers, they could save between 30 - 90% of the energy that they would have needed if they'd used a new silicon material source.
Cool, er, warm.
source: CNN, visit http://www.ibm.com/chips/