Life cycle analysis of conventional and emerging nanofabrication techniques in the semiconductor industry

E. Mullen
Trinity College Dublin,

Keywords: life cycle assesment


The turn of the 21st century heralded in the Semiconductor age alongside the Anthropocene epoch, leading to unrivalled societal benefits. However technological developments and societal changes have resulted in an emerging environmental catastrophe. All industries must now rise to environmental challenges by reducing carbon emissions and environmental pollutants. In the electronics industry, semiconductor chip manufacturing and use are critical contributors to ecological damage. Reliance upon numerous toxic solvents and gases, high energy demands during manufacture and product use, and the mining, sourcing and transport of raw materials contribute to the industry’s ecological impacts. Management and assessment of these impacts is complicated by trade secrets and complex supply chains and networks. This is compounded by the complexity of chip manufacture and lack of reliable source information. In this talk we will highlight many of the challenges in providing reliable environmental assessment to aid discission makers. We will centre on assessing and illustrating these issues using a specific example. Of the many subprocesses involved in chip manufacturing, lithographic processes are of particular concern. Current developments in bottom-up lithography, such as directed self-assembly (DSA) of block copolymers (BCPs), are being considered as a next-generation technology for semiconductor chip production. These nanofabrication techniques present a novel opportunity for improving the sustainability of lithography by reducing the number of processing steps, energy and chemical waste products involved. This research investigates whether bottom-up lithographic techniques are more sustainable than currently used lithographic techniques. This is done using Life Cycle Analysis which is central to verifying whether these new nanofabrication routes can replace conventional deposition techniques in industry as a more sustainable option.