Water Reuse in the Semiconductor Industry – Myth or Reality

Rimer, Alan
(Black & Veatch International)

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The world’s water resources are becoming strained. It is estimated that in this century well over 20% of the world’s population will not have access to water that could be made fit for human consumption. During the fast-paced growth of the semiconductor industry over the last several decades, water has become a precious commodity. This has happened in spite of the fact that in many cases the industry has chosen to locate in arid climates where water is scarce and getting scarcer, more contaminated and harder to treat. Why should the semiconductor industry consider reuse? There are two camps in this arena. One camp favors reuse, and the other camp will not do it unless “forced to” because of the mistaken belief it will impact product quality. As the demand for scarce water resources grows, and communities face impaired streams that require higher levels of wastewater treatment and required recharge of groundwater aquifers, reuse will become more important. Water conservation in the semiconductor business is not new, but as demand for semiconductors grows in the years ahead, water conservation will become increasingly important. This paper reviews the status of reuse practices in the industry and looks at the current and potential reuse/recycle strategies of a number of major semiconductor manufacturers. The myth is that the industry has not stepped up to the plate on the issue of reuse/recycle. The reality is that it is possible to achieve typical wastewater recycling rates of up to 85% for an 8-inch wafer foundry. The challenge will be to achieve those levels in the newer 12-inch wafer foundries. Common wastewater treatment and reuse technologies employed in the industry will be reviewed. They will be compared and contrasted with emerging technologies, many not commonly associated with the industry.

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