Standards and Sustainability

Bookmark and Share

Standards and Sustainability

By James Amano, director, SEMI International Standards

Although prices have moderated recently, the general trend towards costlier energy, as well as environmental concerns, has motivated many of us to modify our lifestyles to be more sustainable, both economically and environmentally.

Although environmental awareness is a new thing for many of us, the SEMI International Standards Program has been developing consensus standards for a more sustainable industry for quite some time. For example, SEMI's first Photovoltaic Standard, M6, Specification for Silicon Wafers for Use as Photovoltaic Solar Cells, was approved in 1981. And although the SEMI Standards Environmental, Health, and Safety (EHS) Committee may be best known for its safety guidelines, Standards related to environmental sustainability have always been a major part of the committee’s activities.

The EHS Committee has long recognized that the impact of semiconductor manufacturing is not limited to energy usage. In the late 1990s, the committee developed guidelines for equipment disposal, originally published as SEMI S16-0600. That document has since been updated and published as S16-0307, Guide for Semiconductor Manufacturing Equipment Design for Reduction of Environmental Impact at End of Life, and includes sections on material selection, design and identification of components for reusability and recyclability, and a list of materials used in semiconductor manufacturing equipment that are likely to be recyclable in the US, Europe, and Asia. Another EHS document, S23-0708, Guide for Conservation of Energy, Utilities and Materials Used by Semiconductor Manufacturing Equipment, is used to analyze energy, utilities and materials conservation on semiconductor manufacturing equipment.

Increasingly, energy produced from photovoltaic sources is being seen as a significant contributor to the world's future energy supply, and standards will play a big part in PV energy becoming cost-competitive globally. Due to silicon being commonly used as a base for PV cells, SEMI has been involved in PV Standards for a long time. The aforementioned SEMI M6 was recently updated to include a new size, 156mm x 156mm, to meet the needs of the PV industry, and also specifies silicon wafers for PV cells for 100 mm, 125 mm, 150 mm, 156 mm, and 200 mm. Standards like this not only promote sustainability by reducing reliance on fossil fuels, but also assist in providing energy to remote locations where the power grid is inaccessible.

PV Standardization activities at SEMI are now occurring globally. Both Europe and North America have formed technical committees, Taiwan has an active working group, and Japan has begun to explore PV standardization, recently hosting the first SEMI Japan PV Forum. The NA Committee is focused on test methods to detect impurities in silicon feedstock for photovoltaic applications, and the EU Committee is currently balloting a document on PV equipment communication interfaces. Coordinating these global activities within SEMI, as well as harmonizing initiatives with outside groups, will obviously be a top priority for SEMI well into the future.

Other committees are actively developing sustainability-related Standards: several Standards from the Information and Control Committee strive for efficiency through cycle time reductions and minimization of downtime, while SEMI's original Silicon Wafer Standard, M1, has been updated in response to the European Community's Directive on the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS).

These are just a few examples of how the SEMI International Standards Program is working to create a more sustainable industry; for additional information, please contact your local Standards staff. Through coordination with the SEMI EHS Division and SEMI PV Group, as well as other organizations outside of SEMI, the SEMI International Standards Program is proud to be making significant contributions to a sustainable future.

For more information on SEMI International Standards, please visit