Environmental aspects of microelectronics
Over the last years, electronics have gained tremendous influence on the economic development and their importance is still growing. The basis of this success is the high innovation rate for both products and processes. With high efforts, scientists around the world are working on future electronics. But do their developments fit future needs, such as sustainable economical growth? Electronics, especially information and communication technologies (ICT), are a leverage to socio-economical growth with little resource consumption per product. On the other hand the manufacturing processes of ICT and the short innovation cycles cause a high energy demand and a fast growing amount of electronic scrap. Especially the metals - essential for electronics because of their electrical, thermal and mechanical properties - are often noxious and also have great environmental impact during production and raw material winning. In this article, after some general remarks on microelectron ics and the environment, two examples of specific environmental problems linked with the use of metals in microelectronics are described and possible solutions are pointed out: First the impact of the manufacturing process of wafers and second the substitution of toxic lead in electronic interconnection technology. In future, electronics should increasingly consider the interest of the environment as in the described examples. New products and process technologies should proof that they contribute to the solution of global environmental problems.