Intel Corporation has announced it will stop using lead in its upcoming microprocessors, starting later this year with the lead-free Penryn line of processors made using a 45-nanometer process and 65nm lead-free chips following next year. Lead is a toxic metal but has a combination of electrical and mechanical properties that make it useful for semiconductor manufacturing.
Intel has been working to eliminate lead from its chips for several years, and development efforts have been costly. In 2005, an Intel executive revealed the company had spent $100 million to develop an alternative material to replace lead in solder used to package chips. The goal at that time was to be lead-free by 2010. While Intel appears to have beaten that projection, the company did not reveal the total cost of eliminating lead from its processors. Intel first began removing lead from its products in 2002, when it started shipping flash memory that used lead-free solder made from tin, silver and copper. By 2004, the company managed to replace most of the lead solder used in its chip sets and processors with the tin-silver-copper solder. However, the company continued to use 0.02 grams of lead in the solder used inside these chips, connecting the silicon die to the chip package. Intel plans to replace tin-lead solder with solder that uses the tin-silver-copper alloy, which according to the chip giant will not affect the performance of the chips.
News source: ComputerWorld