Articles from "Microelectronics News"

Fraunhofer Group for Microelectronics

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Carved from quality wood

The range of organic products on supermarket shelves is growing. Our nights are illuminated by energy-saving light bulbs. And the cars of the future will put considerably fewer emissions into the air. Environmental protection and sustainability have moved into focus in more and more areas of our lives. But has anyone ever thought of the need for a resource- saving computer, most of which can even be recycled? With the “iameco” an Irish company working in cooperation with Fraunhofer IZM has developed just such a model.


Today’s computers do not have a long life expectancy. Yesterday’s newest and most powerful model will be obsolete tomorrow. This is because the innovation cycles in the information and communication technology sector are getting shorter and shorter. But where do retired PCs end up? Until now, their last resting place has been the hazardous waste site. With elements such as PVC or heavy metals, only a very small part of a PC can be recycled. But other factors also impair the ecological impact of a conventional PC – primarily its appetite for electricity. An average PC workstation uses 201 kWh of electricity per year, according to the BITKOM study “Resource-efficient workstation computer solutions 2020.”

Old casing, new core

The Irish company MicroPro Multimedia, together with the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM, has now developed an all-in-one computer that has less environmental impact. With a wooden housing and largely halogen-free standard components – including processors and memory – the iameco is made up of up to 98% recyclable materials. 20% of them can even be used again immediately. Thanks to a modular upgrade concept, the eco-computer will also have an extended life time compared to standard PCs. While today’s standard PCs usually have to be replaced after three to four years, technologically obsolete components of the iameco can simply be exchanged by MicroPro for new ones. Its renewable “inner life” in the old housing should allow the computer to continue running for seven to eight years. Thanks to passive cooling and a solid-state drive (SSD), its yearly energy consumption is a mere 94 kWh. That is 45% less than the current energy-saving star of this computer class, a model with a category-A limit of 148 kWh.

70% fewer CO2 emissions

The researchers at Fraunhofer IZM were responsible for the development of an ecological product design. This offers a means of mapping the environmental effects of a product in detail during the development phase and being able to incorporate the findings into the product design. Using data from the predecessor of the iameco, the scientists analyzed the entire life cycle of the PC – from production and usage to recycling. The focus was largely on energy consumption. The scientists also took a close look at the PC’s carbon footprint. These are the CO2 emissions produced over the entire life of a product. At below 360 kg, the carbon footprint of the iameco is relatively low– a typical desktop PC with monitor would have 70% higher CO2 emissions. The iameco was the first computer in its class to be awarded the EU Ecolabel.


Alexander Schlösser
Phone +49 30 46403-771
Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration IZM
Gustav-Meyer-Allee 25
13355 Berlin