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Shining future for scrap computer chips


IBM’s semiconductor factory in Burlington, VT, has begun recycling scrap computer chips, some of which will end up in solar energy panels.

According to estimates, the entire chip industry discards about 3 million wafers each year. IBM and other companies use silicon wafers to make such microelectronic products as cell phones, computers and consumer electronics. Wafers are also employed to monitor and control the manufacturing process.

To recycle, the Vermont plant scrubs the circuitry from scrap semiconductor wafers. The results can then be used as “monitor wafers” in the manufacturing process or sold to the solar cell industry.

“One of the challenges facing the solar industry is a severe shortage of silicon, which threatens to stall its rapid growth,” said Charles Bai, of ReneSola, one of China’s fastest growing solar energy companies. ”This is why we have turned to reclaimed silicon materials sourced primarily from the semiconductor industry to supply the raw material our company needs to manufacture solar panels"

The recycling program will begin soon in IBM’s East Fishkill, NY, semiconductor fabrication plant.


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