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Intel makes The Register sweat II

Part II: In the bowels at Fab 11

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Executives at the Intel Corporation took The Register for a bunny-suited tour of Fab 11 in Albuquerque, New Mexico and made us sweat. But more on perspiration later. According to representatives from the company, it is extremely unusual for journalist to be allowed into the clean room and while we weren't allowed to dawdle, we were shown quite a lot. First of all, we were shown the sub-fab area, the plumbing, so to speak, of the fab. Down there in the depths there are huge scrubbing machines that remove the toxic waste, including hydrofluouric and hydrochloric acid, from the process. Most of the water is purified and returns to the system. At every alley, there is a shower so that if employees get contaminated by the chemicals, they can flush their bodies and their eyes with cold water. Our guide told us that if one of these showers is activated, around 50 people rush to the spot to discover what the story is. But down in the depths of the sub-fab, there is very little human intervention, unless something goes terribly wrong. The director of the environmental function at the fab told us that they hadn't had a single fatality there. Albuquerque, however, is not very happy with the amount of water Intel uses, despite the fact that much of it is re-cycled. The reason for that is that the aquifer below the city is not as deep as first thought. That, however, raises the question as to why Intel builds fabs in places where the water supply is not what it could be, a question to which we failed to find an adequate answer. The various supply and return fabs access the clean room above using a building system of baffles which allows the mechanics and engineers to punch out one small area at a time, we were told. Above, in the clean room itself, these areas are then isolated to protect the integrity of the environment. ®

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