Skip to main content

IBM eliminates compounds from semiconductor manufacturing as part of its design for the environment program

First in the industry to announce elimination of PFOS and PFOA

1 Mar 2010 -- IBM has announced it has eliminated all known uses of two compounds from its chip manufacturing processes as part of its design for the environment program. These compounds are perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA).

IBM's design for the environment program is focused on the development and manufacture of products and technologies that are safe, energy efficient, protective of the environment and can be reused, recycled or disposed of safely.

Several years ago, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, followed by the European Union and other countries, began putting in place restrictions on the manufacture and use of these chemicals in consumer products, where they were commonly uses as a stain or water repellent. Research showed they are persistent in the environment and bioaccumulative - they can build up in the environment and gradually increase in concentration over time.

These compounds remain permitted for use in semiconductor manufacturing. Small amounts had been used for photolithography - the process of imprinting a chip design onto a silicon chip - and for the process that etches the chip pattern on the chip. IBM has been working over the last decade to find alternatives, and has now succeeded in removing these chemicals from its semiconductor processes.

IBM prohibited the compounds' use in the development of new materials in 2005, in new manufacturing applications in 2007, and set a goal to eliminate all uses of these chemicals by 2010 - a goal that IBM has now achieved. IBM successfully eliminated PFOS and PFOA in its wet etch processes at the end of 2008. IBM's Vermont facility received the Vermont Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence in Pollution Prevention for this accomplishment. IBM eliminated them in its photolithography processes as of January 31, 2010, by working with its suppliers to develop alternative formulations.

"Developing alternatives for these chemicals was an ambitious technological challenge," said Michael Cadigan, general manager, Microelectronics at IBM. "The transition to the new formulations had to be implemented and qualified across a large array of processes without impacting customer product delivery commitments. In addition, several companies in at least five countries have had access to this leadership solution through their technology development alliances with IBM."

"This achievement is another in a long line of significant initiatives and innovation at IBM that supports the company's longstanding commitment to environmental leadership," said Wayne Balta, vice president, corporate environmental affairs and product safety at IBM. "In this case, it demonstrates IBM's proactive approach in identifying, developing and utilizing environmentally preferable materials."

For more information about IBM's semiconductor products and services, visit www.ibm.com/technology.