IBM is first IC maker to eliminate PFOS and PFOA in supply chain

ibmchipmfgEast Fishkill, N.Y. — IBM has eliminated perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) compounds from its chip making processes as part of its design for the environment program.

The semiconductor industry, along with IBM, has been working over the past decade to find alternatives to these two compounds when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, together with the European Union and other countries, began putting restrictions on the manufacture and use of them in consumer products, where they are typically used as a stain or water repellent. These chemicals are considered to be bioaccumulative, where they build up in the environment and gradually increase in concentration, said IBM.

Although these compounds can still be used in semiconductor manufacturing, where small amounts are used for photolithography and etching on the chip, IBM prohibited their use in the development of new materials in 2005 and in new manufacturing applications in 2007. The company also set a goal to eliminate all uses of these chemicals by 2010. IBM eliminated PFOS and PFOA in its wet etch processes at the end of 2008 and in its photolithography processes as of January 31, 2010.

“Developing alternatives for these chemicals was an ambitious technological challenge,” said Michael Cadigan, general manager, Microelectronics at IBM, in a statement. “The transition to the new formulations had to be implemented and qualified across a large array of processes without impacting customer product delivery commitments. In addition, several companies in at least five countries have had access to this leadership solution through their technology development alliances with IBM.”

“In this case, it demonstrates IBM’s proactive approach in identifying, developing and utilizing environmentally preferable materials,” said Wayne Balta, vice president, corporate environmental affairs and product safety at IBM, in a statement.

IBM’s design for the environment program is focused on the development and manufacture of products and technologies that are energy efficient, protective of the environment and can be reused, recycled or disposed of safely.