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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 aos007 on 5/23/2007 12:56:39 PM , Rating: 2
As someone who did a lot of soldering I can say that leaded solder is indeed MUCH easier to work with. I only have used one type of lead-free solder but it was extremely difficult to use it, even with $150+ temperature controlled iron. The melting temperature is higher and it doesn't reflow - you cannot make the joint to melt after it's made even if you up the temperature; the only way I got it to melt again is by adding some leaded solder to it. I sincerely hope they came out with newer mixtures since, as the DIYers would be SOL if this is all we can work with.

RE: California in my mind .......
By Archmaille on 5/23/2007 1:57:03 PM , Rating: 2
Are we talking about electronics soldering here? Because as a jeweler I have a lot of silver solder around and have used it in a variety of applications even to solder wires together. It flows beautifully if you know how to use it. The only time I would need a lower melting point solder is if I couldn't use a high temperature torch around the item (such as a motherboard or something that couldn't handle the 1500° F required to melt soft silver solder)

RE: California in my mind .......
By aos007 on 5/23/2007 2:03:47 PM , Rating: 2
I suspect it's a different solder. Silver solder does work beautifully and that's what I use when I can for audio electronics. It's only 4% silver though and it still has almost as much lead as the normal eutectic solder. The one I worked with is tin and antimony and masher2 pointed out it may actually be meant for plumbing (I shouldn't trust Chinese labels I guess).

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