Air pollution killing computers

Intel boffins are flat out trying to work out a way to save computers from air pollution.

Although there have been few stories about the dangers of air pollution on the manufacture of computer parts, Chipzilla is convinced it is a significant problem.

According to The OregonianIntel’s Hillsboro campus is brewing foul air so they can study the effects of air pollution.

They have been pumping test tubes of pressurised hydrogen sulphide, sulphur dioxide and chlorine and measuring their effects on electronics. So far without any real luck.

But they have been noticing that there have been an unusual number of customers from China and India returning computers with failed motherboards.

The problem was caused by sulphurous air pollution produced by coal that’s burned to generate electricity. It corrodes the copper circuitry that provides neural networks for PCs and servers.

After a year the Oregon engineers say early solutions are either expensive or don’t work that well

For example one idea was to replace the copper subtitutes with something less reactive, but that proved too costly. Another idea which appears to have legs is to look at coating them with something to protect the copper.

This is not just a problem though with manufacturing. While servers operate in climate-controlled data centres in the west, but in developing countries sometimes the only way to cool a server might be to open a window. This exposes the machine to pollution.

Intel is not the only one working on the problem. Dell reported that electronics in corrosive environments typically failed within two to four months.