Among its objectives, IBM’s Corporate Policy on Environmental Affairs calls for our use of development and manufacturing processes that are protective of the environment.
Environmentally Preferable Substances
As an integral part of the global EMS, through which we support the objectives of our Corporate Policy on Environmental Affairs, we routinely and consistently monitor and manage the substances we use in our manufacturing and development processes and in our products.
Our precautionary approach includes the careful scientific review and assessment of certain substances prior to their use in IBM processes and products. In specific instances, we have chosen to proactively prohibit, restrict or substitute substances used in our processes and products when the weight of scientific evidence determines a potential adverse effect upon human health or the environment, even when law permits the use of the substance.
We also conduct scientific assessments of existing approved substances when new processes or major modifications to existing processes are being developed. The objective of these scientific assessments is to identify potential substitutes that may be environmentally preferable. We believe that the same scientific rigor is required when investigating the human health and environmental effects of potential substitutes as was applied to the investigation of the substance in use.
IBM has a long history of continually taking proactive steps to evaluate the chemicals used in our processes and products; identifying potential substitutes that may have less impact on the environment, health and safety; and eliminating, restricting and/or prohibiting the use of substances for which a more preferable alternative is available that is capable of meeting quality and safety requirements of our processes and products.
The following provides a sampling of IBM’s nearly 40 years of early leadership in prohibiting or restricting many substances of concern from our processes and products before regulatory requirements were imposed. A more complete listing may be found on our Materials use web page.
- Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
IBM initiated a multi-year effort to eliminate PCBs from use in our products in 1974 and achieved elimination in 1978.
- Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)
In 1989, IBM became the first major information technology manufacturer to announce a phase-out of CFCs, a Class I ozone-depleting substance, from our products and manufacturing and development processes.
- Class I and II ozone-depleting substances
IBM completed the phase-out of Class I ozone-depleting substances in 1993. Subsequently, we eliminated Class II ozone-depleting substances from our products and processes in 1995.
- Trichloroethylene (TCE), ethylene-based glycol ethers and dichloromethane
Examples of other chemicals that IBM voluntarily prohibited from our manufacturing processes include TCE in the late 1980s, ethylene-based glycol ethers in the mid-1990s and dichloromethane in 2003.
- Polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)
IBM prohibited PBBs and PBDEs from our product designs in the early 1990s and then extended the prohibition to purchased commodities through our procurement specifications in 1993.
IBM prohibited the use of cadmium in inks, dyes, pigments and paints in 1993; in plastics and plating in 1994; and in CRT monitors along with nickel cadmium batteries in the mid-1990s.
- Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA)
IBM ceased the specification of PVC in our IT system enclosures in 2000 and prohibited the use of TBBPA as an additive flame retardant in IT system enclosures for newly released products in 2007.
- Specific perfluorinated compounds (perfluorooctane sulfonate [PFOS] and perfluorooctanoic acid [PFOA])
IBM prohibited the compounds’ use in the development of new materials in 2005, in new manufacturing applications in 2007, and eliminated the use of PFOS and PFOA in manufacturing, development and research processes as of January 31, 2010.
The IBM restrictions on specific substances and other environmental requirements for our products are identified in our Engineering Specification: Baseline Environmental Requirements for Supplier Deliverables to IBM.
By definition, nanotechnology is the application of scientific and engineering principles to make and utilize very small things (dimensions of roughly 1 to 100 nanometers), creating materials with unique properties and enabling novel and useful applications. It involves an ever-advancing set of tools, techniques and unique applications involving the structure and composition of materials on a nanoscale.
Nanotechnology is already part of a wide variety of products—from cosmetics and sunscreens to paints, clothing and golf equipment. It can make products lighter, stronger, cleaner, less expensive and more precise, and has been critical to advancements in the IT industry.
IBM Research became involved in the world of nanoscience in 1981 when Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer invented the scanning tunneling microscope, revolutionizing our ability to manipulate solid surfaces the size of atoms. Since that time, IBM has achieved a number of developments in the field—from moving and controlling individual atoms for the first time and developing logic circuits using carbon nanotubes to incorporating sub-nanometer material layers into commercially mass-produced hard disk drive recording heads and magnetic disk coatings.
We were also one of the first companies to create safe work practices and health and safety training for our employees working with nanoparticles. IBM, along with the International SEMATECH Manufacturing Initiative (ISMI) and other semiconductor companies, is participating in a collaborative study with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) of the University at Albany-SUNY to monitor potential workplace exposure to nanoparticles during chemical mechanical planarization (CMP) operation and maintenance.
IBM’s current nanotechnology research aims to devise new atom- and molecular-scale structures and methods for enhancing information technologies, as well as discovering and understanding their scientific foundations. We believe these technologies can bring with them significant social and environmental benefits.
The following are highlights of some of our latest nanotechnology research milestones:
- IBM announced a major advance in the ability to use light instead of electrical signals to transmit information for future computing. The breakthrough technology—called silicon nanophotonics—allows the integration of different optical components side-by-side with electrical circuits on a single silicon chip using, for the first time, sub-100 nanometer semiconductor technology. Silicon nanophotonics takes advantage of pulses of light for communication and provides a superhighway for large volumes of data to move at rapid speeds between computer chips in servers, large data centers and supercomputers, thus alleviating the limitations of congested data traffic and high-cost traditional interconnects.
- Researchers from IBM and the Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology announced their development of an antimicrobial hydrogel that can break through diseased biofilms and completely eradicate drug-resistant bacteria upon contact. The synthetic hydrogel, which forms spontaneously when heated to body temperature, is the first-ever to be biodegradable, biocompatible and non-toxic. Comprised of more than 90 percent water, if commercialized, it is ideal for applications like creams or injectable therapeutics for wound healing, implant and catheter coatings and skin infections and to help combat serious health hazards facing hospital workers, visitors and patients.
- IBM scientists demonstrated a new approach to carbon nanotechnology that opens up the path for commercial fabrication of dramatically smaller, faster and more powerful computer chips. For the first time, more than 10,000 working transistors made of nano-sized tubes of carbon have been precisely placed and tested in a single chip using standard semiconductor processes. These carbon devices are poised to replace and outperform silicon technology, allowing further miniaturization of computing components and leading the way for future microelectronics.