As semiconductor technology evolves, it takes more energy to manufacture them. Smaller, faster, and affordable technology require more process steps and cleaner manufacturing rooms. This means increased energy from HVAC systems and manufacturing process tools. And since large semiconductor manufacturing facilities can consume up to 100 megawatt hours of energy per hour, energy consumption can account for 5 percent to 30 percent of their total operating costs.
For decades, front- and back-end manufacturers focused largely on efficiency efforts for equipment yield, material consumption, and labor costs. But curbing high energy consumption is beneficial for semiconductor companies. Improving energy systems can help cut operating costs in the long run and provide firms with the funds needed for next-generation plants. Additionally, energy-saving tools and monitoring infrastructure provide increased reliability for facility systems. Committing to energy efficiency is also instrumental to industry growth, as the rise in climate change regulations creates lucrative growth opportunities in renewable energy technologies.
How the semiconductor industry is keeping up with energy-efficient operations
As emerging technology demands more and more energy, how is the semiconductor industry keeping up and being efficient about energy usage? Below is a list of semiconductor technology and organizations aimed to make clean energy a focus in their mission.
ON Semiconductor’s energy-savings portfolio
ON Semiconductor, a global semiconductor supplier, features an entire portfolio of energy-efficient production. It includes manufacturing for vehicle electrification and power management, EV (electric vehicle) charging stations, solar power, and smart power solutions for datacenter servers. As a result, ON semiconductor replaced 128 coal-fired power plants and eliminated 44,000 tons worth of CO2 emissions by supplying innovative power solutions.
New semiconductor material for thermal management
With each smaller generation of chips, computer processing generates more heat. As a result, managing tech hotspots has become an enduring challenge in optimizing performance.
To combat heat concentrates in chips, UCLA engineers developed a new semiconductor material designed to draw and dissipate heat waste better than other silicon materials. According to Yongjie Hu, the lead researcher of the study, the material could improve performance and reduce energy demand in all kinds of electronics, from small devices to the most advanced computer data center equipment.
Magnetic energy harvesting device
Internet of Things (IoT) technology plays a large role in energy consumption through automated heating, cooling, and lighting systems. Often powered by batteries, many IoT devices aren’t very eco-friendly.
However, researchers at Penn State University developed a new eco-friendly energy-harvesting device that taps into stray magnetic fields and converts them into functional electricity. In their approach, scientists used a magneto-mechano-electric (MME) device, which is more efficient at converting weak magnetic fields into electricity. Researchers claim that the magnet is four times more efficient than current energy harvesting technology.
Silicon carbide-based components
Traditionally, silicon has been used as the semiconductor material for many power electronics. But it’s also an inefficient foundation for power supply systems when compared to silicon carbide.
Silicon carbide-based (SiC) components enable designers to reach new levels of efficiency. Many industrial applications can benefit from SiC, including: more efficient heat transfer, high thermal consistency, and the potential for higher power density. Applying SiC components to applications can enable major technology shifts within the automotive, communications infrastructure, and industry markets.
Increased competition, tighter margins, and continuous pressure to improve productivity and manage materials consumption is impacting the industry. To stay competitive, chip manufacturers need to develop new operational practices that keep factory costs down and carbon emissions out of the air. Semiconductor leaders who commit to smart and sustainable improvements will be well-positioned for success.
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