Microelectronics / Semiconductor Wastewater Treatment


Semiconductor fabs are facing increased scrutiny for their environmental impact, particularly as demand for chip design innovation intensifies.

As semiconductor technologies advance and feature sizes on chips get smaller, more processing or “mask layers” are required. Each additional mask layer increases water demand, significantly driving up the environmental footprint from a water perspective.

Fabs are often located in areas where they compete with municipalities for freshwater, frequently using tap water that is further treated to ultrapure water (UPW) standards. This escalating demand places a significant strain on existing freshwater supplies and can jeopardize operations as the industry rapidly expands to meet growing product demand. Hence, the importance of effective and efficient wastewater treatment for reuse continues to grow, ensuring sustainable water management and supporting the industry’s growth and innovation. 

Semiconductor wastewater contains high concentrations of solids and abrasive particles, presenting significant treatment challenges:

  • Grinding and Cutting Wastewater: Contains abrasive particles that can damage conventional membranes.
  • CMP (Chemical Mechanical Planarization) Wastewater: Contains fine particulates and requires coagulation and pH adjustment before filtration.
  • HF (Hydrofluoric Acid) Wastewater Reuse: Requires robust treatment to enable reuse and reduce environmental impact.

Our technology addresses these challenges by providing effective pretreatment for these wastewater streams, ensuring compliance with stringent environmental regulations and supporting water reuse initiatives. The Nanostone CM-151 ceramic ultrafiltration (UF) membrane system offers a smaller footprint, high resistance to abrasion, efficient backwash capability, and a high feed water solids limit, making it ideal for treating various wastewater streams in semiconductor plants. 

Nanostone’s Solutions:

  • Grinding and Cutting Wastewater: Direct filtration using the CM-151 membrane without any pretreatment.
  • CMP Wastewater: Coagulation and pH adjustment followed by filtration with the CM-151 membrane.

Unique Features:

  • Streamlined Treatment: Simplifies the treatment process, reducing complexity and operational costs.
  • High Feed Turbidity Tolerance: Can handle feed water with turbidity up to 10,000 NTU.
  • Resistance to Abrasive Particles: Ensures longevity and reliability of the membrane.

Nanostone’s solutions provide several benefits:

  • Improved Water Quality: Ensures high-quality effluent suitable for reuse.
  • Increased Efficiency: Simplifies the treatment process, reducing operational downtime and maintenance requirements.
  • Reduced Footprint: Compact design fits into space-constrained facilities.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Lowers operational and capital expenses.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Helps facilities meet stringent environmental regulations and achieve high water reuse rates (>90%).

Case Studies/Testimonials

  • Challenge Overview:
    The facility needed to upgrade its HF wastewater treatment to address compliance concerns and enable reuse.
  • Nanostone Solution:
    Implemented the CM-151 UF membrane system, enabling wastewater reuse and reducing the need for fresh water.
  • Benefits Achieved:
    • $800,000 in annual savings through reduced treatment costs, discharge fees, and freshwater acquisition.
    • Reliable operation with a 95% recovery rate and minimal maintenance.
    • Enhanced system stability and compliance with environmental regulations.

  • Challenge Overview:
    The facility faced declining treatment capacity and rising costs due to the fouling of polymeric UF membranes.
  • Nanostone Solution:
    Replaced polymeric UF systems with CM-151 membranes, improving treatment capacity and operational stability.
  • Benefits Achieved:
    • Eliminated the need for third-party wastewater treatment.
    • Achieved a recovery rate greater than 95%.
    • Reduced maintenance and extended CIP cycles to over three months.
    • Membrane life/robustness.

  • Challenge Overview:
    The plant needed an improved treatment method for its high-turbidity mixed wastewater.
  • Nanostone Solution:
    Replaced conventional treatment systems with the CM-151 ceramic UF membranes.
  • Benefits Achieved:
    • Achieved consistent water quality suitable for RO treatment.
    • Reduced operational costs and footprint.
    • Improved water recovery rates from 60% to over 80%.

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