AI could change the game on the forever chemicals used to make chips

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The US government is planning to partner with the European Union on an AI initiative to drive out harmful chemicals from the chipmaking process, according to Bloomberg.

The US and the EU have drafted a proposed alliance in which government agencies would use AI to determine how manufacturers can remove polyfluorinated substances (PFAS) from the semiconductor manufacturing process. The proposed plan is part of broader negotiations at this week’s US-EU Trade and Technology Council meetings in Belgium.

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“We plan to continue working to identify research cooperation opportunities on alternatives to the use of per- and polyfluorinated substances (PFAS) in chips,” the statement reads, according to Bloomberg. “For example, we plan to explore the use of AI capacities and digital twins to accelerate the discovery of suitable materials to replace PFAS in semiconductor manufacturing.”

PFAS, which are also known as “forever chemicals,” have been used in the manufacturing process for years. However, they’re nearly impossible to break down and often show up in the products humans use and consume. Indeed, PFAS have been found in nearly all tech devices, in the food humans eat, and even in their bodies, raising potential health risks. PFAS also contribute to pollution around the globe.

Bloomberg’s sources say that the US and the EU are concerned that China continues to invest heavily in the production of mature semiconductors that, while not powerful, are used heavily across industry and government applications. The West is reportedly worried that, absent new manufacturing processes, China could cement its position as the go-to for all mature chips, creating an even greater international security problem. 

Regardless, it’s unclear from the US-EU statement how exactly the countries plan to use AI to combat the problem. The proposed plan also doesn’t say how long it would take to address PFAS usage. Indeed, the US-EU statement is decidedly short on details.

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“We intend to, as appropriate, continue to collect and share non-confidential information and market intelligence about non-market policies and practices, commit to consult each other on planned actions, and may develop joint or cooperative measures to address distortionary effects on the global supply chain for legacy semiconductors,” the agreement reportedly says.

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