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Achieving More With Less: Advancing Semiconductor Manufacturing Sustainability

Published on
October 19, 2021
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While there has been a great deal of talk about the global chip shortage and surging demand for semiconductors, less conversation has been dedicated to an even more worrisome topic: the industry’s vast carbon footprint. 

The carbon footprint of semiconductor manufacturing has the potential to expand even further as initiatives to increase production and plans for new FABs take shape. According to Greenpeace East Asia, up to 80% of carbon emissions over a device’s lifecycle occurs during manufacturing. Thankfully, many are beginning to take notice, with major media beginning to shine a light on the issue, rightly shining a light on the paradox of semiconductors, in spite of their heavy energy consumption, also unlocking downstream efficiency and bringing macro-level carbon reduction goals within reach. While there are few easy answers within an industry as vital to modern life and technically complex as semiconductor manufacturing, it is reassuring to see major industry leaders not only begin to talk more about sustainability – but also start to take action.

One such initiative was recently announced by the SEMI global industry association. In partnership with McKinsey & Company, SEMI leaders identified five key intervention points to help shrink the industry’s carbon footprint: 

  1. Reduction of operations energy consumption
  2. Optimization of energy supply – purchases of renewable energy and decarbonization of power plants via natural gas
  3. Supplier decarbonization
  4. Reduction of process greenhouse gas emissions – increased abatement, reducing gas usage and leakage
  5. Reduction of downstream energy consumption – improving the energy efficiency of electronic products
We have developed a metrology platform that supports semiconductor process control that is smarter, consumes less material, and is more energy efficient, enabling “achieve more with less” advantages across a wide range of applications.

Building on this research, along with a growing number of sustainability commitments from major global chipmakers, SEMI recently issued an urgent call to startups asking for help to drive innovation in eco-friendly manufacturing, focused on three key areas: 

  • Energy efficiency at tool, manufacturing process, and supply chain levels
  • Water sustainability technologies to enable increased manufacturing process efficiencies, reclamation, reuse and restoration in industrial treatment centers
  • Material usage and sustainability, including alternative chemistries for wafer processing, materials recycling and waste stream abatement
Estimated equivalent CO2 emissions from greenhouse gases used across different nodes. (imec)

At Atonarp, we are excited and emboldened to see this type of action from industry leaders. More so, we are excited that the areas of focus align perfectly with our vision to use semiconductor metrology as a key tool in using less to achieve more in semiconductor FABs. 

Atonarp’s Aston metrology platform supports semiconductor process metrology that is smarter, consumes less material, and is more energy efficient, enabling “achieve more with less” advantages across a wide range of applications, including: 

  • Modulating semiconductor abatement systems burn rate based on the chemical make-up and concentrations of the exhaust gases
  • Monitoring and optimizing process gas usage to ensure enough, but no more, of harsh process gas is used
  • Process to End point detection instead of inefficient time based processing especially for Small Open area Etch, chamber cleaning and ALD processes.
  • Enablement of Equipment & Process Co-Optimization (EPCO) through in-situ, real-time data, unlocking the opportunity for AI/ML-driven continuous improvement of operational efficiency  to enable  process efficiencies and optimize product yields

You can read about these applications in the Aston resource library.

In the meantime, we are excitedly taking part in this call for startup innovation in semiconductor sustainability – and we hope other companies with fresh and bold ideas to support a greener future will join us.