Why the Semiconductor Industry Cares about Sustainability


Our Commitment to Sustainability

Why the Semiconductor Industry Cares about Sustainability (May 2024)

Coming June 2024: Harnessing Technology for a Greener Tomorrow

Coming July 2024: Finding Sustainable Solutions in Semiconductor Manufacturing

Coming August 2024: Opportunities for Conserving Natural Resources

Coming September 2024: Inspiring New Generations

Coming October 2024: Celebrating Sustainability Day 2024

Sustainability and Energy Efficiency Chapter of MAPT Roadmap

Yuexin Cao (Univ of Pittsburgh)  Dr. Nathan Marchack (IBM)  Dr. Paige Jacob (Intel)  David Robertson (ADI Technologies)   Sarah Wallace (Texas Instruments)

As we commemorate Earth Day, celebrated annually on April 22nd, it's imperative to reflect on our relationship with Mother Nature and the responsibility we hold in preserving her gifts for future generations. The definition of sustainable development, introduced in 1987 in "Our Common Future" by the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development, remains as pertinent today as ever: 

development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs

Throughout history, pivotal moments like the Industrial Revolution have shaped our interaction with the environment. From the first industrial revolution to the current era of Industry 4.0, technological advancements have drastically altered our socio-economic landscape. The fourth industrial revolution (4IR), characterized by connectivity, advanced analytics, and automation, is driven by innovations in information and communication technology (ICT). The demand for artificial intelligence (AI) applications and migration of computing systems into true cognition domains is poised to occur alongside advancements and innovations in the semiconductor ecosystem. This trajectory is anticipated to drive substantial growth within the semiconductor industry over the coming decade, with McKinsey & Company forecasting an expansion from approximately $590 billion to nearly $1 trillion. As we embrace this digital transformation, it's crucial to consider its environmental impact.

Semiconductor manufacturing, pivotal to ICT, faces sustainability challenges. The expanding demand for energy in data storage and transmission, driven by data centers and network services, contributes to a growing carbon footprint. The intricate processes in semiconductor production emit greenhouse gases, pollute with chemicals, and consume substantial energy. However, the semiconductor industry acknowledges these issues.

The 2015 Paris Agreement, a landmark treaty on climate change, outlines a crucial goal: limiting the global temperature rise to 1.5°C by 2050 to prevent severe climate consequences. Meeting this target within the semiconductor realm requires a significant 43% reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. While many semiconductor firms pledge to cut GHG emissions by 2040, closing this gap is essential, with a projected shortfall of 60 MT of CO2e on the path to achieving net-zero emissions.

Recognizing this urgency, Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC), a prominent research consortium, unveiled its Commitment to Sustainability in 2021. By leading research and development efforts in greener materials and manufacturing processes, energy-efficient semiconductor chips, and revolutionary advancements in ICT systems, SRC aims to foster sustainable innovations. Firmly dedicated to shaping a greener future, SRC embeds sustainability into its research agenda, focusing on developing eco-friendly materials and energy-efficient computing architectures while nurturing emerging talent.

Engaging young students and early career professionals, brimming with energy and optimism, is crucial in addressing sustainability challenges. SRC recognizes the importance of inspiring the next generation of innovators to tackle complex societal issues including sustainability. Using platforms such as webinars, panel discussions, and in-person events, SRC provides insights into rewarding semiconductor careers at the intersection of technology and sustainability. By engaging young students to explore these opportunities, we pave the way for a brighter, more sustainable future.

To commemorate Earth Day, we were delighted to host a panel discussion featuring a variety of lived experiences:

  • Yuexin Cao (Univ of Pittsburgh) 
  • Dr. Nathan Marchack (IBM) 
  • Dr. Paige Jacob (Intel) 
  • David Robertson (ADI Technologies)  
  • Sarah Wallace (Texas Instruments)
Each of our distinguished guests shared their unique journey. They emphasized the importance of collaboration and continuous learning in driving sustainable innovation, encouraging student attendees to secure internships or other hands-on experiences. Their narratives highlighted the diverse backgrounds attracted to sustainable semiconductor technology and the unique expertise that leads to contributions in this field.
The discussion highlighted the industry's efforts in reducing water consumption, demonstrating a commitment to mitigating environmental impact. This focus on sustainability underscores semiconductor manufacturers' dedication to environmental stewardship and responsible resource management. The webinar's attendees, comprising undergraduate and graduate students from various disciplines, gained insights into career pathways in sustainable technology. The speakers' experiences illustrated the diverse ways that students can discover more about sustainable semiconductors, from internships to research collaborations.

The event concluded with a hopeful outlook on the future of sustainable technology. With continued innovation and collaboration across academia and industry, the semiconductor field is poised to make significant strides toward a more sustainable world. In conclusion, as we commemorate Earth Day, let us not only celebrate the beauty of our planet but also reflect on our role in preserving it. By embracing sustainability in technology and nurturing young talent, we can pave the way for a greener, more sustainable future. Together, let's shape a world where innovation and environmental stewardship go hand in hand. 

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