Tuesday, June 25, 2024

ST’s Jean-Louis Champseix, VP, Head of Corporate Sustainability Shed Light on “How Semiconductors Contribute to Green and Low Carbon”

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In an era of increasing concern about climate change and the urgent need for sustainable
development, industries around the globe are actively seeking innovative solutions to reduce
their carbon footprint. One sector that plays a pivotal role in driving this green revolution is
the semiconductor industry. With their ground-breaking technologies and relentless pursuit of efficiency, semiconductors have emerged as key enablers of environmentally friendly
practices across various domains.

Semiconductors enable renewable energy and transportation and play a vital
role in smart grids, intelligent buildings, and industrial automation, facilitating efficient
energy distribution, monitoring, and control. Semiconductors empower businesses and individuals to make informed decisions that minimize waste and maximize sustainability by optimising resource allocation and enhancing energy management systems. Jean-Louis
Champseix, Group VP, Head of Corporate Sustainability, STMicroelectronics shares his
thoughts on “How Semiconductors Contribute to Green and Low Carbon”

Q1. In what ways do technologies such as ICs (Integrated Circuits) including 5G, edge computing, power devices, and others contribute to the establishment of a green and low-carbon economy and society? How does STMicroelectronics prioritize and implement its green and low-carbon strategy?

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Jean-Louis Champseix: Sustainability has been a guiding principle in ST since the early
1990s. Today, it is integrated into every part of our business to so we bring innovative
solutions to environmental and social challenges. As one concrete example among many, we
launched our Sustainable Technology program in 2011. It implements a global approach to
ensure we take sustainability into consideration when we develop new products. This creates
value for our company, our customers, and society in general. Our Sustainable

The technology program is a unique product Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) approach to
semiconductors. This approach is integrated in our product and technology development and covers the chip life cycle from cradle to grave. LCA is performed in terms of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as well as water and water eutrophication, for example. In ST, we create products for a sustainable world, in a sustainable way. We are convinced that technology can play a key role to help solve environmental, social, and societal challenges. We, therefore, believe in developing responsible products that enhance the quality of life or user experience while minimizing environmental impact.

In general, power devices with better conversion efficiency (i.e. that consume less energy)
help enormously in moving to a low-carbon economy. The impact can be seen in mobility
(hybrid and electrical cars), infrastructure (lower power consumption, better efficiency in
transmitting RF signals), and in general, in all applications where power devices are
used. Efficiency in power conversion is critical in the deployment and adoption of new
energies, including solar and battery-powered applications. 

In enabling the move to 5G and other low latency, high throughput communication systems,
these support remote meetings/activities and, as a consequence, save trips by car, plane, etc. ST for many years has targeted electric mobility, power and energy, and the Internet of
Things and connectivity, which contribute to the growth and sustainability of smart
cities smart buildings, and smart industry. Our efforts include enabling and better
utilizing renewable energy and smart grid. These are the main drivers of our growth,
which allow us to sustain our performance across market cycles.
 

Q2. How is STMicroelectronics’ green and low-carbon program expected to benefit the semiconductor industry amidst the current downturn in the market cycle? 
Jean-Louis Champseix: ST contributes to the shift from traditional cars powered by internal combustion engines to smarter, greener mobility solutions. ST’s car electrification solutions enable makers to build better, more affordable electric vehicles that allow drivers to reduce air pollution and mitigate global climate change.

A second key driver to support decarbonization is related to energy, and especially renewable energy. We contribute to the transition to greener energy sources with high-power, high-efficiency power components that lower loss in energy conversion in solar panels, wind turbines, and smart grids using wide bandgap semiconductor technologies like Silicon Carbide (SiC) and Gallium Nitride (GaN). 

Q3. In recent years, an increasing number of chipmakers have shown a strong
commitment to green development, encompassing initiatives such as the adoption of renewable energy sources, power-saving measures during manufacturing, and reducing power consumption in corporate data centres. Given the immense potential for green and low-carbon development within the semiconductor industry, could you explain the extent of this potential and delve into STMicroelectronics’ specific plans to contribute to this transformative movement? 

Jean-Louis Champseix: The whole Semiconductor industry has been engaged for a long
time on minimizing as much as possible its impact on the environment, especially related to
manufacturing. For low carbon, the 2 main aspects are direct emissions, mainly due to usage
of perfluorinated gases (PFCs),  and energy (mainly electricity), which counts as indirect
emissions (GHG protocol Scope 2). In those both domains, ST has been a longtime pioneer.
We’ve actively addressed these challenges since 1994. Concretely, it means we’ve installed
abatement systems in all Fabs to reduce PFC emissions as much as technically possible. ST is
recognized by Its peers in this field as leading the PFC-abatement task force at the World
Semiconductors Council for more than 15 years.

We have also paved the way with renewable electricity in the semiconductors industry,
increasing the percentage of certified green electricity we use year by year. In 2022 62% of
our used electricity was from renewable sources. We made a commitment to achieve carbon
neutrality by 2027 and are on track with our commitment to meet 80% of our electricity
needs from renewable sources in 2025 and 100% in 2027 as one element of our Carbon
neutrality commitment.

With all our action plans, we are confident that we can eliminate all possible emissions and
will use offsets to balance any trace of remaining emissions. ST will be Carbon neutral in
2027, confirming our leadership in Sustainability.

 
Q4. Considering the widely recognized energy-saving advantages of Wide Bandgap Semiconductors (WBGs), how do you envision the future of WBGs within the broader context of society’s commitment to low-carbon initiatives? Moreover, could you shed light on STMicroelectronics’ investment plans concerning WBGs? 

Jean-Louis Champseix: ST’s portfolio offers a wide range of products including high-
performance silicon devices and the latest generation of wide bandgap technology to satisfy
the high efficiency required by renewable energies. The core of this offer leverages the
advanced and innovative properties of new wide bandgap semiconductors, using silicon
carbide instead of silicon. These semiconductor devices can achieve previously unobtainable
efficiencies. In fact, ST has been at the forefront of the development of SiC technology for
over 25 years.  Compared to what was previously possible with silicon-based technology,
ST’s wide bandgap devices can minimize energy wastage by cutting switching losses in half.
Lower losses lead to less heat and smaller (or no) heatsinks, so they also decrease size and
weight of end products leading to around 50% reduction in installation costs.

Thanks to their ability to turn on and off far faster, these groundbreaking semiconductors can
attain greater conversion efficiencies and handle far greater currents and voltages than
previous Si-based devices could. In solar panels, wide-bandgap devices can therefore support
a greater number of solar cells and power, ensuring further cost advantages. In addition,

control electronics that were previously separate from the rest of the solar panel can now be
packaged in it. This increases reliability and efficiency, which also reduce the price.
Decarbonization efforts are increasing the demand for renewable energy and its supporting
infrastructure. In this ongoing transition, semiconductors are demonstrating their importance
to a new emerging clean energy economy and helping to unleash innovations for secure,
scalable, and reliable energy solutions.

STMicroelectronics introduced its first SiC diodes in 2004, after several years of research and
development on silicon carbide technology. ST introduced SiC MOSFETs in 2009 and began
mass production in 2014. Today, ST’s portfolio of medium- and high-voltage power products
based on SiC technology is among the widest in the industry. ST is actively engaged in
capacity expansion and development of a comprehensive, reliable, and robust SiC supply
chain able to meet demand growth and ensure continuity through extended longevity
programs. ST manufactures its SiC products to the highest standards to ensure reliable performance and efficiency gains for electric vehicle (EV) applications, solar inverters, energy storage, industrial motor drives, and power supplies. Our technology exceeds industrial and
automotive application standards and is on track to target more extreme aerospace
applications.

Indeed, our commitment to Silicon Carbide devices allowed us to offer industry-leading SiC MOSFETs and SiC Diodes for industrial and automotive applications. These devices target high-voltage designs thanks to their 650V or 1200V rating, depending on the part number, and can tolerate the highest junction temperature on the market today at 200ºC. However, the road to these industry-changing components was far from simple. Doubling or tripling the bandgap in comparison to silicon means that SiC devices can tolerate much higher voltages and electric fields because the electrons need three times more energy to reach the conduction band. As a result, the breakdown voltage in SiC components is much higher while their on-resistance is far lower.

SiC enables a reduction in the overall size of the traction inverter because, beyond the fact that MOSFETs devices are smaller, they also integrate a very fast freewheeling diode, whereas a bigger Silicon IGBT would require an external one on the PCB. Overall, SiC allows a reduction in the size of the traction inverter of about 70%, which has a snowball effect. Indeed, since the power semiconductor can get up to 80% smaller, the cooling system and the passive components can also decrease by that much.

SiC also reduces the size of the onboard charger and battery management solution of electric vehicles. This has led to the integration of SiC into the DC-DC converter and power
distribution unit. This remarkable four-in-one solution is already inside a commercial battery-
powered electric vehicles today and will ensure the proliferation of affordable electric cars. 
Overall SiC power dissipation is 75% lower than Si-based technologies.

In a nutshell, Silicon Carbide offers many advantages in automotive applications: car weight
reduction, greater range ( >600 km with SiC), reduction of charging time (from 16 to 7 min)
because a SiC charging station can handle twice as much energy (fast charger: 350 Kw with
SiC).

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