More sustainability in ICT through microelectronics research

Small parts with a big impact

October 27, 2023, 10:30 am |

Jörg Schröper

As is well known, information and communication technology (ICT) is the basis for many major future markets such as artificial intelligence (AI), new mobility or smart homes. However, the growing importance of industry is also accompanied by increased CO2 emissions.

In a study, experts from the competence center “Green ICT @ FMD” (Microelectronics Research Factory Germany) have drawn up forecasts of the future climate impact of ICT in the application areas of data centers, telecommunications and households. In the “Microsystem technology– Congress 2023″ Dr. Nils F. Nissen presented the first results.

The Microelectronics Germany Research Factory, a collaboration between the Fraunhofer Microelectronics Group and the Leibniz Institutes FBH and IHP, sees itself as the central contact for all matters related to micro- and nanoelectronics in Germany and Europe.

The background of the study: KT products inevitably burden the environment both in use and production In order to more accurately identify potential savings in the production and use of ICT components, Green ICT @ FMD investigates. competence center for resource-conscious ICT funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, in data looking at the whole of ICT in Germany.

One of the first results is that absolute CO2– equivalent emissions from ICT use will increase to around 20 million tonnes by 2030. Depending on the evolution of total emissions, these could account for 4% of the greenhouse gas emissions produced in Germany in 2030.

In the study, the scientists looked specifically at CO emissions2-The energy consumption from the use and production of ICT in Germany are considered equivalently based on the defined inventory data. They also calculated how future market developments will likely determine the number of devices in each year of the forecast. Based on product data on energy consumption, together with a defined usage pattern, the energy consumption of individual products is determined in each year of use.

Assuming a specific CO2The emission factor of the electricity mixture was then calculated as CO2-ICT intensity calculated in the usage phase. Together with CO2-The balance sheet from product manufacturing results in the total emissions of a product category. In order to determine the overall balance, an extrapolation is made using the inventory data determined annually and the specific environmental data from the examination of the production and use phases. Technical developments in environmental data are also taken into account.

The results show a significant increase in electricity consumption after 2020 – due to the greater amount of data in telecommunications networks and the increasing number and use of data centers. In the household sector, experts at the Competence Center predict a slight increase in consumption, after it had decreased significantly until 2019. In 2030, over 30 million tons of CO will be released in the aforementioned application areas – telecommunications, data centers and households2-equivalent greenhouse gases are created. That’s about 50 percent more than in 2021.

The production of ICT considered includes almost eleven million tons of CO2-equivalents account for about one-third of emissions and about two-thirds of emissions occur in the use phase. The study will be expanded in the future to include further products from the application areas of trade, commerce and services, as well as building automation and IoT.

The Green ICT @ FMD competence center says it focuses on evaluating and then improving the resource consumption of sensor cloud systems, energy-efficient communication infrastructures and resource-optimized electronic production processes. In addition to centralized data processing infrastructures, modern networked ICT systems have increasing capabilities for data collection and processing at the edge of the network. This creates more opportunities to optimize data processing and transmission processes between the cloud and the edge and thus minimize resource consumption when using ICT.

The researchers see further potential for savings in the development of powerful networks such as 5G and 6G, but mainly in the greenhouse gas emissions that occur during the production of microelectronic components.

In addition, direct support plays a role as the first point of contact for SMEs and start-upsoopsthe training and further education of specialists as well as the close networking of all relevant stakeholders play a central role in the work of the competence centre.

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