Microchips may be small, but their impact on our world has been huge. And this impact goes beyond the obvious effects of e-mail, cell phones and electronic organizers: A new study shows that the "environmental weight" of microchips far exceeds their small size.
Scientists have estimated that producing a single two-gram chip — the tiny wafer used for memory in personal computers — requires at least 3.7 pounds of fossil fuel and chemical inputs. The findings were reported Oct. 25 on the Web site of Environmental Science & Technology, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society, the worlds largest scientific society. The print version of the paper is scheduled for the Dec. 15 edition of the journal.
"The public needs to be aware that the technology is not free; the environmental footprint of the device is much more substantial than its small physical size would suggest," says Eric Williams, Ph.D., of United Nations University in Tokyo, Japan. Williams is the lead author of the paper and director of a project investigating the environmental implications of the Information Technology revolution.
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