Intel claims its taking an “aggressive stance” towards the use of lead in its chips and has committed to removing its entire 45nm Hi-k family which includes the Intel Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Quad and Xeon processors.
Judging by the length of the accompanying press release – Intel seems to be taking the issue seriously - well, the PR department certainly is anyway - here's an excerpt:
The Road to Lead-Free? For many decades lead has been used in electronics because of its electrical and mechanical properties, making the search for replacement materials that meet performance and reliability requirements a significant scientific and technical challenge. Due to lead's potential impact to the environment and public health, Intel has worked for years with its suppliers and other companies in the semiconductor and electronics industry to develop lead-free solutions as part of its long-standing commitment to environmental practices. In 2002, Intel produced its first lead-free flash memory products. In 2004, the company began shipping products with 95 percent less lead than previous microprocessor and chipset packages.
To replace the remaining 5 percent (about .02 grams) of lead solder historically found in the first-level interconnect -- the solder joint that connects the silicon die to the package substrate -- in processor packages, Intel will use a tin/silver/copper alloy. It is the way in which Intel will implement these new materials to replace the tin/lead solder that is the "secret sauce" of the company's solution. Because of the complex interconnect structure of Intel's advanced silicon technologies, a great deal of engineering work was required to remove the remaining lead in Intel's processor packages and integrate a new solder alloy system.
Intel engineers developed the assembly manufacturing processes involving the new solder alloys, and were able to accomplish this while still demonstrating the high level of performance, quality and reliability expected of Intel components.
Environmental Sustainability -- From Transistors to Factories? Intel has a long history of commitment to the environment, a philosophy that began with its founder Gordon Moore. In addition to eliminating the use of lead in its products, Intel has developed a number of environmental best-practices in its factories and operations. It is also designing and building energy efficiency into everything it does, from the smallest 45nm transistors in its forthcoming lead-free processors and today's high-performance Intel Core 2 Duo processors that consume up to 40 percent less energy to broad support for industry standards and strong public policies. Among many examples:
Earlier this year Intel transitioned its Intel® StrataFlash® Cellular Memory packages to halogen-free technology. The company is currently evaluating the use of halogen-free flame retardants in its CPU package technologies.
In 1996, Intel led an industry-wide agreement to reduce global warming gas emissions in semiconductor manufacturing, and today is working with the European Union (EU) to discuss how the technology sector can help meet the EU's target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020.
Intel is focused on reducing the natural resource use and waste by products of its manufacturing process. In the past 3 years, the company has saved more than 9 billion gallons of fresh water through conservation measures, and reduced its global warming gas emissions by the equivalent of removing 50,000 automobiles from the road. It has reduced hazardous materials in its products and recycles more than 70 percent of its chemical and solid wastes. Intel makes renewable energy a priority. The company is the single-largest purchaser of wind power in Oregon and the largest industrial consumer of renewable energy in New Mexico. Through Intel's ongoing conversion from 200mm to 300mm wafers, it has been able to reduce water consumption by approximately 40 percent for each square centimeter of silicon produced. Intel has been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its work on Energy Star* and employee commuter programs.
For additional information about Intel's commitment to the environment, visit www.intel.com/go/responsibility.