Producing computing devices is not the clean image it is cut out to be.
Producing a single computer requires:
of fossil fuels
LOW ENTROPY MATTER
Computing components are extremely organized structures of matter.
First generation Intel Core i7 processor.
Digital technology is a product of cheap energy, power hungry production methods are inherent to its design.
As energy resources continue to fall, future cheap energy is not guaranteed.
Producing semiconductors consumes
more energy than traditional goods.
Thousands of different chemicals, many in high quantities, are used throughout the manufacturing process.
Most are extremely toxic, and new ones with unknown consequences are constantly developed.
Polishing of silicon wafers.
Increases semiconductor conductivity.
Chemical vapor deposition.
Chemical vapor deposition.
Creates a positive charge in silicon.
LEGACY OF CONTAMINATION
Directly as a result of semiconductor production, Silicon Valley has the most toxic waste sites of any region in the entire USA.
Other areas where there is a history of electronics manufacturing, such as Upstate New York, has a similar problem.
Every large electronics manufacturer that began operations before the 1970s has a toxic waste site in its history.
Toxic waste sites, Silicon Valley.
A typical semiconductor manufacturing facility consumes
This is equivalent to the consumption of
ONE SPECK OF DUST
Microchips are assembled in super clean rooms, a single dust particle would ruin it.
Workers wear bunny suits not for their protection, but for the protection of the chips against any particles from a human body.
A semiconductor clean room.
A GLOBAL PROCESS
The supply chain for computing devices makes up the most sophisticated and complex supply chain system in human history.
Raw resources and components are produced and shipped all around the planet before final assembly.
The global computer supply chain visualized.
Semiconductors are produced in numbers that dwarf other products.
To function, a computer requires hundreds of components, including over 100 microchips.
INTERNET CONNECTED DEVICES IN BILLIONS
2015 - 2025
Any efficiency gains of digital technology will be absorbed by the growing footprint as the number of internet connected devices is expected to triple in the next 5 years.
The silicon wafer serves as the foundation upon which micro sized circuits are built.
A finished silicon wafer.
ELECTRIC ARC FURNACE
At around 2000 degrees celsius, the quartzite is reduced with coke to metallurgical grade silicon in an electric arc furnace.
FLUIDIZED BED REACTOR
After multiple distillations, the trichlorosilane is put into a chemical vapor deposition reactor. Here it is reduced with hydrogen at 1100 degrees celsius, polycrystalline silicon is deposited on electrically heated hyperpure silicon rods. The process takes an entire week.
The end result of the CVD reactor is polycrystalline silicon with only one foreign atom per 10 billion silicon atoms. The polysilicon is removed from the deposition rods, crushed, and undergoes chemical surface refining.
The polycrystalline silicon is melted in a furnace at 1500 degrees celsius. Chemical dopants including arsenic and boron are added, these make the wafers semiconductors. Using the Czochralski method, a silicon ingot with a monocrystalline structure is grown.
GROUND AND CUT
The individual slices undergo more grinding to smooth out the edges. Then, in a lapping machine, the surfaces are ground down to remove saw marks and improve total flatness. Final wafer thickness is as low as 275 micrometers.
ETCHED AND POLISHED
They are etched in acids to remove any surface damage from grinding, then polished in an ultrafine slurry to achieve a mirror surface with a roughness on an atomic scale. Final cleaning and packaging is done in a vacuum clean room.
The end result is a 99.9999999% pure, perfectly flat, crystalline silicon semiconductor substrate, ready for micro circuits to be built on it.
ONE SQUARE CENTIMETER OF WAFER
The waste consists mostly of nitrate compounds, causing ecosystem unbalance.
Most silicon wafer production is done in China where there is little environmental regulation.
The finished wafer is now ready to have microchip circuits built on it.
A silicon wafer with micro circuits etched on.
3D section of a microchip.
Many layers of circuitry are built on top of another.
The wafer is coated with photosensitive resist chemicals that harden when exposed to UV light.
In a dark room, light is project through an image mask of the layer design, then a minitizuration lens, and finally onto the wafer. The pattern is hardened on the wafer.
Etching chemicals are then used to remove areas of material not covered by the hardened photoresist.
The wafer is bombarded with ionized plasma to infuse the silicon with different dopants, resulting in altered conductive properties.
Impurities are baked into areas of the silicon to further alter electrical conductivity properties.
Insulating layers are grown on the silicon substrate.
A specialized deposition method called metallization forms critical connections between different areas of the chip.
A finished wafer can carry hundreds of chips.
Using extremely precise diamond saws, the wafer is cut up into the individual chips.
They are then installed in packages which prevent damage and serve as a connection interface for circuit boards.
After a few months and hundreds of processing steps, the microchip is finished.
You will find over 100 microchips in a typical computer.
ULTRA PURE WATER
Not including air emissions.
To supply our increasing consumption of computing devices, the microchip industry has steadily grown since its inception.
SEMICONDUCTOR WORLDWIDE REVENUE IN BILLIONS
1988 - 2018
CONSUMES LOADS OF ENERGY, CHEMICALS, AND WATER
DEMAND IS INCREASING
THIS WILL CAUSE
MAJOR WASTE AND DESTRUCTION
- THIS SYSTEM NEEDS TO BE REBOOTED -
The current computing model of take, make, and dispose needs to be reimagined.
This is critical if humanity is to survive and prosper into the future.
MANUFACTURING IS ONLY ONE PART OF THE PROBLEM