| ||The 1.7 kg Microchip
A recent study from the IT and Environment Initiative suggests that the environmental impacts of producing microchips have a macro-scale. The article is titled "The 1.7 kg microchip: energy and materials use in the production of semiconductor devices" and appears in the Dec. 15, 2002 issue of the American Chemical Society journal Environmental Science and Technology.
The research investigates use of materials in the chain of production processes to make microchips. A main result is that the total weight of fossil fuels and chemicals required to make a 2-gram 32MB memory chip is 1,200 grams and 72 grams respectively. Add 400 grams of fossil fuel use to make the electricity consumed during the use phase the total result is that one small chip needs about 1.7 kg of fossil fuels and chemicals for production and use. Also, 32,000 grams of water are required per chip. This suggests that the environmental impacts of making a chip belies its small size. Chips are much more intensive that traditional products, the ratio of production inputs to the weight of the final product is 630 for a memory chip, but only about 2 for an automobile or 4-5 for an aluminum can. Industry, government and the public should work to minimize environmental impacts and maximize the benefits of computers.
The results of the study have been extensively covered by the scientific, business and popular media, including BBC, Nature, Scientific American, Financial Times, Business Week, Science News as well as a number of national and regional newspapers around the world.
A selection of press coverage of the article:
BBC World Service and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation have also covered the story in the following radio programs:
Increased awareness plays a role in stimulating response to address the environmental implications of Information Technology.