How to Streamline Wastewater Treatment Systems and Make Money Out Of Waste

By Jochen Ruth & Gerd Heser

Microelectronics Materials recovery Microfiltration Operations Ultrafiltration Wastewater

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Semiconductor device manufacturing generates large quantities of solid, liquid, and gaseous waste. A semiconductor fab is more or less a chemical plant that discharges wastewater streams with rather complex but well defined compositions. Different from chemical plants, however, process changes happen more frequently. The wastewater treatment technology of a semiconductor fab is a moving target as sophisticated processes need advancing, more complex additives and materials.

Often capacity limits in terms of wastewater treatment time and hydraulic load create bottlenecks for fab expansions. Usually only few of the single wastewater streams are the troublemakers. Treatment strategies in past were typically affected by two weak points: Inadequate segregation of individual waste streams on the one hand, and separation of solids from liquid waste too far downstream in the process. These two strategic deficiencies have frequently resulted in an “end-of-pipe” treatment approach.

Refurbishment and optimization should focus on those streams where the wastewater contains very fine, sub-micron particles. Separating these particles from the wastewater facilitates various ways to re-use/ reclaim/use the treated water. Some typical scenarios are listed in Table A.

Fortunately, to invest into updated wastewater treatment systems is not necessarily a painful but unavoidable provision. On the contrary: Savings due to closing water loops help to finance expenditures needed to expand and to update wastewater treatment capacities.

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