Water Conservation Challenges Facing the Microelectronics Industry

By Vyacheslav Libman, Ph.D., PE, and Andreas Neuber, Ph.D.


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The semiconductor industry has been driven by innovation for many years, and will continue to grow in the foreseeable future. However, this industry has now reached a size where sustainable growth in certain regions is limited by the availability of resources. Water is one of the most important limited natural resources, which is critical for any semiconductor manufacturing facility. Although semiconductor manufacturing is a minor user of the worldメs total water supply, its impact on specific regions can be significant. A typical fab consumes between 1 million and 20 million U.S. gallons a day. According to Donovan (1), semiconductor manufacturers at many locations are being denied requests for the additional water required to support plans for production expansions, or the construction of a new manufacturing facility. The message to semiconductor manufacturers is to use less water per unit product output, despite the widely recognized fact that semiconductor manufacturing already returns much higher product value per unit of water used than virtually any other human activity. Approval for plant expansion often comes with the stipulation that water demand from the regional supply will not increase.

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