Skip to main content

IBM Burlington, Vermont, receives 2007 Most Valuable Pollution Prevention Award

National Pollution Prevention Roundtable recognizes IBM Burlington for innovative silicon wafer reuse and reclamation

30 Oct 2007 -- IBM Burlington recently received the 2007 Most Valuable Pollution Prevention Award (MVP2) from the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable (NPPR) for their innovative reuse and reclamation of silicon wafers. As the largest membership organization in the United States devoted solely to Pollution Prevention (P2), NPPR acts as a window on the P2 community. The mission of the Roundtable is to provide a national forum for promoting the development, implementation, and evaluation of efforts to avoid, eliminate, or reduce pollution at the source (i.e., source reduction instead of traditional end-of pipe methods). Since 1998, the MVP2 Awards have recognized innovative industrial, regulatory and non-regulatory pollution prevention projects and initiatives. The MVP2 Awards are open to all stakeholders (all levels of government, industry, non-profits, etc.). There are five broad judging categories: (1) innovation, (2) measurable results, (3) transferability, (4) commitment, and (5) optimization of available project resources.

Reducing waste generation and improving process efficiencies in its semiconductor manufacturing operations has been a continual focus at IBM Burlington. Each year, many thousands of silicon wafers reach the end of their useful life or are rejected for a number of reasons before being shipped to a customer. Historically, the scrap silicon from wafer manufacturing operations was ground and sent to a landfill for disposal. IBM monitor wafers at the end of their life are now being sold to the manufacturers of solar panels as raw material for the production of photovoltaic cells. Patterned product wafers, however, presented a challenge, as wafers bearing recoverable chip architecture could not be used. IBM Burlington's engineers designed a technique for removal of the proprietary patterns from product wafers through a novel process, allowing their reuse for solar cell manufacturing. Normal pattern stripping would involve the use of corrosive acids such as H2SO4, HF, HNO3, and Ozone. The new process avoids the use of corrosive chemicals, removing the pattern using an abrasive pad, water and slurry with the pattern materials coming off as a solid. By requiring fewer processing steps at the reclaim vendor, this project provides chemical and manufacturing cost savings beyond the IBM Burlington plant operations. The project continues to have significant environmental benefits for IBM -- reducing the amount of waste disposed and contributing to the development and manufacture of alternative energy devices, i.e., solar panels -- and the potential of creating similar benefits within the semiconductor industry worldwide.

The NPPR also recognized IBM Burlington's energy management and water conservation programs with an honorable mention. The facility has long been recognized for its innovation that matters for the company and the world with its pollution prevention initiatives. IBM Burlington has been a recipient of the Vermont Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence and Pollution Prevention each year since the inception of the awards in 1993. The Awards honor Vermont individuals, organizations, institutions, public agencies, businesses, and industry using innovative approaches that reduce or eliminate the generation of pollutants and wastes at the source.