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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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RE: California in my mind .......
By masher2 on 5/23/2007 11:53:23 AM , Rating: 1
Pencils have never contained lead. They've alwaysw been made from graphite.

RE: California in my mind .......
By Treckin on 5/23/2007 12:34:01 PM , Rating: 3
"However, even though writing pencils made of graphite were first used around 1565, writing pencils that used lead were still in very common use in the 18th century. Why? Because they were cheaper, even if they were toxic. But, you certainly wouldn't want to suck on a "lead" pencil if it really had lead in it. In fact, lead pencils became extinct only in the early 20th century."

RE: California in my mind .......
By masher2 on 5/23/2007 12:55:04 PM , Rating: 2
I'm pretty sure that's incorrect; I've read the exact opposite on dozens of occasions. Lead marking styluses were used until the 19th century...but they were simply a block of raw metal, not encased in wood or anything else, and not intended for writing, but simply general industrial marking applications. Some of the confusion may have come from the fact that, until the 18th century, graphite was actually thought to be a form of lead.

In any case, if you define "pencil" as some type of wood-encased writing tool, then they've always been made from graphite and/or slate.

RE: California in my mind .......
By Treckin on 5/23/2007 2:02:49 PM , Rating: 2
Wrong. The first source of viable graphite was discovered in England, where the British refused to release any of the material to foreign nations or merchants until 1795. Lead was a far more common material. It wasn't until an alchemist ground finely a lower grade graphite and mixed it with a clay slurry that graphite was a financially feasible alternative to lead-core pencils. Graphite was originally thought to be an odd form of coal. Sheep herders discovered its marking utility on accident, as graphite was an excellent marker for their sheep, allowing them the distinguish them from neighboring flocks.
Its somehow become a myth that lead was never used in pencils.

RE: California in my mind .......
By masher2 on 5/23/2007 2:24:23 PM , Rating: 2
You're wrong about graphite being originally thought to be coal. It was thought to be a form of lead ...hence it's original name plumbago (latin for "lead ore").

But you're still missing the primary point. Lead is harder than graphite and much less brittle, meaning there's no need to encase a lead marker in wood or anything else. Pencils-- if you define the term as a wood-encased writing tool-- were never made from lead. People marked with lead...but they didn't make pencils from it.

Also, though England did restrict access to their high-quality graphite, pencils were being made from powdered graphite as far back as the 1600s.

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