Life-cycle assessment of computational logic produced from 1995 through 2010

Determination of the life-cycle environmental and human health impacts of semiconductor logic is essential to a better understanding of the role information technology can play in achieving energy efficiency or global warming potential reduction goals. This study provides a life-cycle assessment for digital logic chips over seven technology generations, spanning from 1995 through 2010. Environmental indicators include global warming potential, acidification, eutrophication, ground-level ozone (smog) formation, potential human cancer and non-cancer health effects, ecotoxicity and water use. While impacts per device area related to fabrication infrastructure and use-phase electricity have increased steadily, those due to transportation and fabrication direct emissions have fallen as a result of changes in process technology, device and wafer sizes and yields over the generations. Electricity, particularly in the use phase, and direct emissions from fabrication are the most important contributors to life-cycle impacts. Despite the large quantities of water used in fabrication, across the life cycle, the largest fraction of water is consumed in generation of electricity for use-phase power. Reducing power consumption in the use phase is the most effective way to limit impacts, particularly for the more recent generations of logic.

Boyd, S. B., A. Horvath, and D. A. Dornfeld. 2010. “Life-Cycle Assessment of Computational Logic Produced from 1995 through 2010.” Environmental Research Letters 5 (1): 014011.

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