Computer maker IBM has found a way to save money, reduce waste, and contribute to the development of the solar power industry with just one smart innovation--recycling defective semiconductor chips and sending the recovered refined silicon to manufacturers of photovoltaic solar cells. A worldwide shortage of refined silicon, the key ingredient in both semiconductors and solar cells, has kept prices for solar power artificially high in recent years, and photovoltaic producers welcome the news of IBM's breakthrough in processing its wasted chips for them.
"It reduces our cost and it reduces our carbon footprint," says Thomas Jagielski, who heads up environmental operations at IBM's chip factory in Burlington, Vermont. "And it provides resources to the solar industry."
Currently IBM discards upwards of three percent of the semiconductor chips it produces due to flaws that could impact the quality and performance of the computers it helps to create. By recycling these chips, the company expects to save about $1.5 million a year, while getting credit for helping make solar power more...