$10 Million Research Center Aims to Advance Environmentally Benign Semiconductor Manufacturing
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One of the most concerted efforts to study the environmental, health and safety aspects of the semiconductor manufacturing process is being initiated through a partnership with the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC).
The NSF/SRC Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Environmentally Benign Semiconductor Manufacturing will be housed at the University of Arizona and led by chemical engineer Farhang Shadman. Through the ERC, engineers and scientists from Arizona, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, and the University of California-Berkeley will cooperatively address the semiconductor industry's concern for a more environmentally sound manufacturing process.
NSF and the SRC will each commit $1 million a year for five years. SEMATECH, the semiconductor industry's manufacturingtechnology development consortium, will contribute $750,000 in start-up funds.
The semiconductor industry makes electronic components for products that fuel the information age, such as cellular phones, personal computers, VCRs and televisions. Complex electronics also play an integral role in a variety of other products, including automobiles, medical instruments and children's toys. The global semiconductor industry alone supports an annual worldwide market of $150 billion, and it provides essential resources for much larger markets. The U.S. share of the global semiconductor market is approximately 40 percent and growing each year. The market is expected to grow to $183 billion in 1996 and exceed $238 billion in 1998. The U.S. semiconductor industry employs 272,000 workers and provides the enabling technology for an electronics industry that employs 2.5 million U.S. workers.
An essential issue for the semiconductor industry is the development and use of environmentally sound manufacturing processes. One focus is the large amount of highly purified water required to rinse and clean a silicon wafer. The semiconductor industry is interested in reducing water use through innovative technology development. There is also a need to minimize the amount of energy required to manufacture microchips.
Most semiconductor manufacturers have voluntarily ended the use of ethylene-based glycol ethers -- fluorocarbons used as cleaning solvents. To replace them, the industry is looking for safe solvent alternatives. Although the semiconductor industry's share of total fluorocarbon use is small, the industry is still concerned about its possible impact on the earth's ozone layer.
The Arizona ERC will work in partnership with firms from the semi-conductor industry that will contribute to strategic planning of the research program. These firms will interact with faculty and students in research, and provide opportunities for student interns both to learn the manufacturing process firsthand and also to contribute solutions for industrial problems while they are still in school. ERC graduates will be part of a new generation of engineers capable of integrating environmentally conscious concepts up-front in the design of manufacturing processes.
The Engineering Research Centers Program, established in 1985 by NSF, builds partnerships among universities and industry. These Centers support long-term fundamental research, integrate the knowledge of engineering and scientific disciplines in research designed to advance technology systems, and educate a new generation of engineers capable of using knowledge across disciplines to enhance the competitiveness of industry.
The SRC, the research arm of the Semiconductor Industry Association, was created in 1982. It plans and implements an integrated program of pre-competitive research conducted at 48 North American universities, national laboratories and research institutions. The SRC is located in Research Triangle Park, N.C.
SEMATECH, created in 1987, is a consortium of 10 major U.S. semiconductor companies and the U.S. Department of Defense. It seeks to develop semiconductor manufacturing technology to keep the U.S. semiconductor industry competitive. SEMATECH is located in Austin, Texas.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2017, its budget is $7.5 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 48,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.
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