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Lead-tin interconnects, like the ones seen on this Intel "Prescott" processor, are a thing of the past. (Thumbnail and image source: Chipworks)
Intel is taking the next step in environmentally friendly products

Intel Corporation announced on Tuesday that the future of its microprocessors will be lead-free and environmentally friendly.  This follows a big tech industry shift towards products that are more environmentally friendly.  The shift will begin with its line of "green" 45-nanometer high-k metal gate (Hi-k) processors, which includes the next-generation Intel Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Quad and Xeon processors.

Lead is mainly used in a variety of micro-electric "packages" and "bumps" that attach the Intel chip to "packages", which are then wrapped around the chip and used to connect it to the motherboard.  Package designs include pin grid array, ball grid array, and land grid array, and will all be 100 percent lead-free.

With the introduction of 65nm Yonah, Chipworks -- a company that reverses engineers chip packaging -- discovered that Intel silently transitioned from lead-tin solder-ball interconnects to plated copper pillars. Since then, all 65nm Intel processors no longer use lead for interconnects.

"Intel is taking an aggressive stance toward environmental sustainability, from the elimination of lead and a focus on greater energy efficiency of our products to fewer air emissions and more water and materials recycling," said Nasser Grayeli, Intel vice president and director of assembly test technology development, Technology and Manufacturing Group.

Lead, which can cause neurological damage in humans if ingested, was used in electronics for decades due to its electrical and mechanical properties.  Intel produced its first lead-free flash memory product in 2002, and began shipping products with 95 percent less lead than previous chips in 2004.  The remaining 5 percent was replaced by a tin/silver/copper alloy in the first-level interconnect, the solder joint that connects the silicon die to the package substrate.

In February 2003, the European Union adopted the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive. The directive mandated that all electronics sold must be near lead-free by June 2006. Special clauses protected microprocessors from utilizing some lead in their design, but AMD and Intel both opted to go lead free before the call to action date anyway.

Production on the Intel lead-free 45 nanometer high-k processors, codenamed Penryn, will begin in the second half of this year.


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Nice one!
By Goty on 5/23/2007 8:47:31 AM , Rating: 4
The only reason Intel is switching is because copper offers superior conductiing properties to that of PbSn interconnects. Good PR spin, Intel! =P




RE: Nice one!
By KristopherKubicki (blog) on 5/23/2007 9:55:18 AM , Rating: 2
Yep.


RE: Nice one!
By sprockkets on 5/23/2007 10:25:24 AM , Rating: 3
Not sure how this is Intel PR spin, as Intel didn't report this, but another company did the spin.


RE: Nice one!
By Treckin on 5/23/2007 11:33:16 AM , Rating: 2
actually, another company did the reverse engineering a few years ago, and discovered it themselves. That tells me that Intel wasn't going green, and the new Copper alloy just happened to work better. The fact that they didnt mention it is telling enough. They wernt even thinking of the environment (most likely focusing on how to ditch NetBurst, lol)
This announcement reeks of Intel saying to themselves "Huh, we could go out and rack up some green brownie points for something we need to do anyhow..."


RE: Nice one!
By iNGEN on 5/23/2007 1:39:57 PM , Rating: 2
Believe it or not marketing departments aren't often consulted before manufacturing decisions. That comes part comes later. When did public display become requisite for responsible behavior?


RE: Nice one!
By masher2 (blog) on 5/23/07, Rating: 0
RE: Nice one!
By P4blo on 5/24/2007 11:32:27 AM , Rating: 2
But then there is a huge ethical difference between an accidental improvement and one that you specifically seek to achieve for the good of the planet. The more difficult, the more respect I say! In a world where most companies are basically run by cynical, money grabbing ***holes it's good that we differentiate those that care and those that care not.

My coffee's coming from Costa rather than Star$$$$ if Star$$$$ want to try and shaft their 3rd world suppliers.

It's only media allied with consumers that can really kick big companies in the rear. Governments dont seem to have the stomach for it.


RE: Nice one!
By Goty on 5/23/2007 11:57:27 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Intel Corporation announced on Tuesday that the future of its microprocessors will be lead-free and environmentally friendly.


I'm not sure where you got the idea that Intel didn't report it, because the first sentence of the article says they did.


RE: Nice one!
By Oregonian2 on 5/23/2007 8:35:00 PM , Rating: 2
They may have not phrased it that way.

But in any case all of these sarcastic retorts are IMO rather silly.

RoHS'ification (which includes six materials, one of which is lead) is something driven by the EU. You do it if you want to sell stuff there (or your customers want to sell stuff there).

That's what's driving the lead free campaign, and it's not just Intel, it's the entire electronics industry (along with other industries as well).

That said, the amount allowed is a lot more than zero so their part may already be RoHS compliant and they're taking it further, which is fine and good.

Good things are good things even if it isn't Mother Teresa doing it. Good things should be applauded rather than punished. Even if it's unusual, still should happen that way.

One may argue how big are the "bonus points" they earn doing it, because it may have happened "for free" when done for other reasons, but they still get bonus points -- just a matter of how many and how big the points are.


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