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re: more on Intel’s water consumption

In last month’s Signpost, I wrote about a new, clean microchip manufacturing process invented at Los Alamos Labs in 2001 that is faster, cheaper, cleaner, and safer than the current toxic, water-wasting method employed by Intel. In response to the Signpost’s editors’ request for more information on the new process, here is a press release:

Los Alamos, N.M., February 7, 2001—Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory have developed a new technology application that could all but eliminate the use of hazardous corrosives and the production of wastewater in the fabrication of integrated circuits, or chips, for computers.

Chip making is sometimes called a “clean industry” because of the images of technicians in white lab suits working in ultra-clean rooms with shiny pristine silicon wafers. But it is estimated that on the average day of operations at a chip-making plant, four million gallons of wastewater are produced, and thousands of gallons of corrosive hazardous materials, like hydrochloric and sulfuric acid, are used.

The new technology, called SCORR, focuses on photoresist removal, one of the steps in a process called photolithography, where high intensity light along with aggressive acids and corrosives are used to create a chip’s tiny integrated circuits by altering the topography of a silicon wafer. Using carbon dioxide at high temperature and pressure, known as supercritical carbon dioxide (SCC02), in place of the hazardous materials, laboratory researchers have demonstrated a technology that inexpensively replaces the solvents as well as the tremendous quantities of ultra-pure water that are used to wash those solvents away.

“Carbon dioxide, at pressures above 1,050 pounds per square inch and temperatures above 31 degrees centigrade, becomes supercritical,” said Craig Taylor, who leads the SCORR team in the Laboratory’s Applied Chemistry Technologies group. “In its supercritical phase the gas becomes liquid, but behaves a little like both—giving it the ability to act as a solvent. But SCCO2 alone is somewhat ineffective, so it is combined with minor amounts of a more effective cosolvent, and we’ve seen that this mixture is quite effective at photoresist removal.

“On top of that, when the pressure and temperature are lowered, the SCCO2 returns to its gas phase, leaving the silicon wafer bone-dry and virtually free of any dirt, eliminating the need to rinse with ultra-pure water and dry with isopropyl alcohol. And the best news, carbon dioxide is cheap, nonflammable, nontoxic, biodegradable, recyclable, and plentiful.”

The Los Alamos photoresist removal technology produces virtually zero hazardous waste. It is designed as a closed-loop system that reuses the carbon dioxide in the process, adding no greenhouse gas to the atmosphere. Because of their low vapor pressure, the additive cosolvents are easy to separate from the mixture, and so they, too, are collected and reused.

A key element in the process is a tiny, high-pressure sprayer that pulses the SCCO2/cosolvent onto the silicon wafer to assist in dislodging the photoresist. Developed by technician Jerry Barton, the sprayer creates enough surface drag to dislodge the microscopic bits of photoresist already softened by a minutes-long soaking in the SCCO2/cosolvent mixture. This combined process of soaking and spraying, along with an SCOO2-only wash, has produced results that equal the chip fabrication standards currently accepted in industry.

The early work on this technology was accomplished through a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with computer manufacturer Hewlett-Packard. Research and development continues with IBM and GT Equipment Technologies, Inc.

“We want to bring this technology to the attention of the computer industry, as well as the public in general, just to emphasize the environmental advantages of SCCO2,” said Craig Taylor. “Even if you were to set aside the hazards and pollution associated with the corrosive materials used in chip making, you still have the issue of water use—and that’s especially critical in the Southwest where several large chip fabrication facilities are located. We believe that the SCCO2 process has the potential to save hundreds of millions of gallons of water every year even if it were installed in just one factory, making it not only a very important technological advance, but an environmental advance, as well.”

Despite Craig Taylor’s repeated efforts to discuss this new technology with Intel, his phone calls have not been returned, states Fred Marsh, retired LANL chemist, who was told this by Craig Taylor himself.

When is Intel going to get real about its massive water pumping and toxic emissions instead of the phony PR that we’re routinely fed by this “good neighbor?”

Barbara Rockwell


re: Volunteering at Placitas Recycling Center

The PRA board is extremely grateful for the cooperation and support of our many community volunteers at the Placitas Recycling Association. Our esteemed board secretary, Fran Stephens, contacts each and every volunteer in advance to insure that we have adequate coverage for our twice a month Saturdays. It would help if the volunteers would refer to their calendars to verify if they are on tap for a Saturday morning. Think about it, there you are, nestled amidst the cardboard, aluminum, plastic, white paper, and peanuts—who could ask for more. We are a very effective team—board members and volunteers—and will continue to be so, particularly, if each of the segments realizes how dependent they are on the cooperation and mutual support of each other. Thanks as always for your assistance in making this community effort a win-win situation.

—Margaret Palumbo, Placitas Recycling Association Board Member


re: mail problems

My husband and I moved to Placitas in June of 1995. We have enjoyed the beautiful vistas, privacy, and sense of living in a caring, active, and committed community. We have supported a number of the grassroots initiatives. The community has started to make positive changes in our lives.

However, starting in March of 2002, we started having problems with our mail service for the first time. Starting then we were not receiving important mail, especially mail from our credit-card holders. We have even experienced problems with mail that we placed in our community outgoing mailbox that never reached its intended receiver.

My husband has talked with the postmaster; we have filled out forms, written letters; and just this month we found out again that we did not receive first-class mail that was sent to us.

So I am asking people in Placitas, if you ever receive mail addressed to Kenneth or Margaret Lucas, please contact us and we will pick it up.

We regret having problems with the Placitas Post Office. We especially regret having to write a negative letter about their services. We hope that by writing this letter we can reach out to our community and find a different way to approach the problems. If you are having similar problems with your mail service, please contact us.


Ken and Marge Lucas


[Editor’s note: We use the Placitas Post Office a lot and find the service of the present staff quite good. We hope they don’t get disgruntled over this letter. We also appreciate the value of community dialog in solving problems.]


re: forcing agenda

Dear Signpost:

I am curious that you chose to print R.G.'s patronizing and pedantic letter "Understanding Islam" on the first anniversary of 9-11. Obviously this newspaper is now in the business of forcing an agenda on its readers, perhaps with a little guidance from the NEA. Stick with hometown stories.

If R.G. decides to start a war of words in your paper, I can say in advance that I've said all I'm going to say on the subject. It is the very freedom and tolerance we enjoy in this country that permit R.G. to write his letter, for you to publish it, and for me to express my concern.

Scott Chamier


re: Do as I say, not as I do.

To the County Sheriff’s Department:

I got a speeding ticket on the S-curve in Placitas week before last. I know, after the letter in the September Gauntlet, I had fair warning. I received my ticket like a man. I broke the law and got caught. The officer who ticketed me was just doing his duty.

Last week I was having lunch in the Range’s new Lizard Lounge in Bernalillo. At the next table was a large party that I assumed was a lunch for employees of the sheriff's department (it might also explain the number of sheriffs's cars parked in front).

The party broke up and all the party-goers, including several officers in uniform and in plainclothes, got into their marked and unmarked vehicles with the other party guests and did what? Made U-turns! Yep, right in front of a No U-Turn sign. And right in front of all who were sitting by the windows at the Range.

I guess it's a case of do as I say, not as I do. If you want us to respect the laws you are paid to enforce, how about obeying those laws yourselves.

Gary Priester





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