Google Glass Materials
Have you ever looked at your water bottle and asked yourself, “What is this made out of?” Have you ever wondered where your iPhone will go once it breaks or becomes outdated? Or how much energy it takes to make a simple piece of paper? Most people have never thought about these questions or have never researched what is involved in these processes. However, it is very important to realize what human consumption is doing to our Earth. This paper will focus on a single product, Google Glass, and will be broken down into its raw materials. However, materials are only one piece of the puzzle to capture the essence of the full product and the processes that makes Google Glass what it is to the user. Embodied energy and waste/emissions are also important factors when looking at how a single digital product impacts the Earth.
Google Glass is the newest popular technology that is a wearable, hands free device that allows high powered technology to be accessible without getting in the way. Google Glass advertisements rave, “It’s surprisingly simple,” compared to other digital technology we have such as smartphones. Its design is simple, yet the user still has all the technology and more that is in current high-tech products like smartphones and computers. However looking into the materials, it does not seem so simple. There are so many raw materials, as well as energy and waste materials, that go into this product that it’s hard to wrap your head around it! However this is no different than other digital products and it is no surprise that this small “simple” product has a lot more going on with it than most consumers believe.
Like most digital technology, Google Glass is made up of many different components with each part specialized for doing different tasks. Its basic structure is a frame, a core processor located inside of the frame, and the optical display that is presented in front of the user’s eye. Each part that makes up Google Glass is made of a variety of raw materials, many of which go through long processes to become what they are in the finished product.
The basic piece of all digital technology is the silicon chip. Silicon chips go through very long complex processes to become functional in a product such as Google Glass. The starting material for a silicon chip is sand, which has a high percentage of silicon in it. The silicon goes through hundreds of steps such as cooling, cutting, etching and imprinting to become a usable chip for Google Glass. There are a total of three silicon chips in Google Glass: a central processing unit, a flashdrive and a random access memory chip. The silicon chip contains hundreds of thousands of integrated circuits, mainly transistors that are made of germanium, which are layered upon each other to form an intricate network. The article “What Is a Silicon Chip” describes, “These components can perform control, logic, and/or memory functions.” This material is essential for electronics to function. These chips are conceptually the “brain” of the device.
Beginning with the frame, the main raw material it consists of is titanium. This band of titanium is what goes around the front of the users face to keep the device secure around the head. It also has a screw that is made of steel, casing for the processor unit made of plastic, and glue to hold it all together. The type of plastic and glue could not be found, so it is assumed that the plastic is petroleum based and the glue could be made from several different materials, including collagen/gelatin, chemicals, and oils. The frame is the simplest part of Google Glass and requires the smallest number of materials. However titanium and plastic are used in greater amounts than most other materials in the product. Materials, such as the germanium used in the transistors, are used in a very small amount compared to how much plastic is in the frame.
Inside the frame is where the central processing unit (CPU), memory, and other technical parts are stored that make Google Glass able to perform as powerful technology. A general CPU is made of silicon, copper, copper sulphate, and germanium (in the transistors). It’s held on a printed circuit board (PCB), which is made of laminates, copper clad laminates, resin impregnated B-stage cloth, and copper foil. The CPU is where many impressive functions of Google Glass are executed, such as the ability to record videos right in front of your eye, have maps and directions displayed in virtual reality, and translate language instantly.
The memory consists of a flashdrive and a random access memory (RAM) unit, which are both made on the same printed circuit board as the CPU. The flashdrive and RAM both have resistors made of platinum, tungsten, nichrome, and clay, capacitors made of aluminum, mylar, and plastic, and transistors made of germanium. The flashdrive allows the Google Glass user to store information long term, while the RAM allows processes to be loaded quickly and hold memory for a short period of time. Both of these units are fairly small and fit neatly in the frame of Google Glass.
As for the other technical parts stored in the frame, there is a battery made of lithium and an infrared emitter made of light-emitting diodes (LED) which is composed of gallium arsenide. There is also a thermal pad made of silicone or paraffin wax (could not be determined which), a microphone made of neodymium, iron, boron and copper, and a bone conduction speaker made of steel. The thermal pad allows the device to stay cool, while the microphone enables the user to speak directly to the device in order to give it functional orders and to also speak with other people. The bone conduction speaker sends vibrations through the user’s body in order to produce sound.
The optical display is the main component that makes Google Glass what it is for users: technology without getting in the way. A very small prism is placed over the eye and the image one sees is projected through this prism directly onto one’s retina, creating a “virtual reality layer,” as Brian Voo describes in his article on Google Glass. The optical display is set on a printed circuit board. It is affixed to the frame using glue, again the type of glue is unknown. The optical display is made of silicon, cholesteric liquid crystal, and liquid crystal on silicon . It also has an organic light-emitting diode (OLED), made up of carbon, a liquid crystal display (LCD) made of glass and liquid crystal, and a cathode ray tube (CRT) made of lead glass, potash-soda lead glass, and barium lead. This high-tech optical display allows the user to see the various control functions the device has, such as seeing a person on video chat, taking a picture or video, or seeing directions on a map.
The camera, which is also part of the optical display, is similar to a smartphone camera though the details could not be found specific to Google Glass. A standard smartphone camera is made up of LED lenses and cyclo-olefin polymer. The LED lenses have different chemical makeups based on which color they emit, and it was not specified anywhere as to what colors the camera uses. Another component of the optical display is the ambient light sensor, which detects light levels and is made of titanium.
Google Glass also comes with a variety of accessories including one clear and one tinted shield, a microfiber cloth, and a charger. Plastic lenses are typically made from acrylic (acrylate monomers), polycarbonate, CR-39 (allyl diglycol carbonate) or polyurethane, and it can be assumed that the shields are made from these materials or similar ones. The microfiber cloth is made from polyester (polyethylene terephthalate) and polymides (e.g., nylon, Kevlar, Nomex, trogamide) and allows for safe cleaning of the device. The materials in the charger for Google Glass were unable to be found, except for the fact that it has an LED light, which was described earlier.
Each component in Google Glass is manufactured in different places around the world, mostly in Asia, but are assembled in the United States in Santa Clara, California by Foxconn. For example, the CPU is made by Texas Instruments most likely in Texas or across seas (could not be determined). This company is in charge of gathering all the raw materials necessary to make the CPU (as listed above), constructing these materials into a working CPU and distributing them to other companies to use in their products, like Foxconn.. Google Glass also gets their memory chips from SanDisk, their RAM from Elpida, and their microphone from Wolfson, just to name a few. Since Google Glass is such a complex product, it was difficult to track down where each component came from. A part of Google Glass such as a transistor can be made by a number of companies since it is such a basic item in digital products and they are basically all the same because they are so small. It cannot be confirmed, but it is a logical guess that the companies who manufacture each part use some form of fossil fuels to run their factories. There are too many different machinery involved in these processes and too many different companies to be specific on what each machine uses as their fuel. Although I could not find what materials are used for fuel in most companies, I did find fuel information for Texas Instruments, who seemed to be the most open about sharing their information with the public. The company only stated that they use natural gas in manufacturing processes.
It was also very difficult to find all raw materials used in Google Glass because of that same reason, it’s so complex! I first searched the internet for a breakdown of all of its parts, which still only led me so far, and then searched individually for each part’s raw materials. Unfortunately I could not find every raw material through my long search. This could be due to the fact that Google Glass is such a new product so there has not been much extensive outside-company research done on the product. This could also be because of the nature of digital products and how complicated they are. An article would have to go very in depth just to get to the basics of the mechanism. I had trouble scouring through articles that made no sense to me to find the right information I needed. The components found in Google Glass that I could not find the raw materials for include the USB cable and charger, the proximity sensor, the infrared receiver, the RF module, and the Wi-Fi module. I also could not find information about the touchpad, but it looks like it is made on a printed circuit. Since there are so many parts that make up Google Glass, it would not be realistic to be able to find every raw material that it is composed of.
Recycling Google Glass was also difficult to research, since the product is only in the beginning of its operation. There have not been many, if any, Glasses that have been thrown away to become electronic waste (e-waste) yet. Cui and Lifeng tell in their article about e-waste, “From the point of material composition, electronic waste can be defined as a mixture of various metals, particularly copper, aluminum, and steel, attached to, covered with, or mixed with various types of plastics and ceramics.” Since Google Glass is a digital electronic device, it’s safe to assume that when being thrown out, it will follow the procedures that current electronic waste goes through when being recycled. The recycling process of e-waste first encourages reuse of the whole equipment, then recovering of materials, and as a last resort, disposal by incineration and landfilling. When reusing the product isn’t an option, the e-waste can be disassembled to take out the valuable and recyclable pieces. Recovering materials from e-waste is a very complicated process involving disassembling the waste individually and then if needed, using a variety of chemicals such as cyanide, halide, thiourea, and thiosulfate and many more to leach the materials, such as copper, aluminum, and nickel, out of the product. There are many materials that can go into the recycling process, such as the latter, but overall these processes do not get much valuable materials out. Since there are such small amounts of each material going into Google Glass, it would be very hard to get those materials back out for reuse. Overall, recycling Google Glass will be just as hard, if even possible, as the e-waste we are trying to recycle today. Recycling this e-waste isn’t the best solution. The problem lies in the manufacturing process, which consumes the most energy out of the Google Glass life cycle and where all materials are extracted and processed for the product.
Just like any product, by breaking Google Glass down into its raw materials, it can make people aware of what is going into the product and what is or isn’t coming back out of the product. It’s important for us as humans to understand that every product that we buy goes through long and complex processes to become what it is. By not realizing what makes our products, the raw materials, the energy used to make the product, and the waste that it produces along the way all become invisible to us. Once these facts become invisible to us, it becomes so easy to not care about how our consumption is impacting the Earth. The ignorance we have, including myself, towards the products that we buy is harmful to the Earth. I found out through researching Google Glass, however, that finding the information we need to become aware isn’t so easy. Many companies don’t want you to know what materials are going into your products, or how much energy their factories use on a daily basis. But this is the information that is crucial to our awareness.
By breaking down Google Glass into its raw materials, you can see that this small “simple” product is actually very complicated. There are many materials that go into just one of these devices. Imagine producing Google Glass on a large scale and how much materials it would require. Being aware of these facts could help people realize the impact that consumerism has on the well-being of the Earth.
1. "Corporate Citizenship Report." ti.com. N.p., 2011. Web. 6 Mar. 2014.
2. "CRT GLASS." spie.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Mar. 2014.
3. Cui, Jirang, and Lifeng Zheng. "Metallurgical recovery of metals from electronic waste: A review." ucelinks.cdlib.org. N.p., 30 Oct. 2008. Web. 3 Mar. 2014.
4. "Google Glass Breakdown." slideshare.net. N.p., 2014. Web. 5 Mar. 2014.
5. Hertsens, Tyll. "AfterShokz and TEAC Filltune HP-F100 Bone Conduction Headphones." innerfidelity.com. N.p., Mar. 2012. Web. 7 Mar. 2014.
6. "How Computer Monitors Work." computer.howstuffworks.com. N.p., 2014. Web. 4 Mar. 2014.
7. "How Intel Makes Chips: Transistors to Transformations." intel.com. N.p., 2012. Web. 29 Feb. 2014.
8. "IR emitter and IR phototransistor." mechatronics.mech.northwestern.edu. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Mar. 2014.
9. Jackson, Rob. "Google Glass: Hardware Review." Phandroid. Phandroid.com, 9 May 2013. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.
10. "Lens." en.wikipedia.org. N.p., 3 Nov. 2013. Web. 4 Mar. 2014.
11. "MATERIALS: HIGH-CLARITY CYCLO-OLEFIN FOR SMARTPHONE, TABLET CAMERA LENSES." ptonline.com. N.p., Oct. 2012. Web. 6 Mar. 2014.
12. McGuigan, Brendan. "What is a Photocell?." wisegeek.org. N.p., 10 Mar. 2014. Web. 4 Mar. 2014.
13. "Microfiber." en.wikipedia.org. N.p., 24 Feb. 2014. Web. 3 Mar. 2014.
14. "Microphone." madehow.com. N.p., 2014. Web. 4 Mar. 2014.
15. Minyanville. "Breaking Google Glass Into Pieces: The Costs of Production and Likely Retail Price." NASDAQ.com. Nasdaq, 23 Aug. 2013. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.
16. Nguyen, Tuan An, and Kevin Parrish. "UV Light Exposure." Tom's Hardware. TechMedia Network, 18 July 2009. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.
17. "OLED Technology Explained." oled-info.com. N.p., 2014. Web. 7 Mar. 2014.
18. Olsson, Maj Isabelle, Mitchell Joseph Heinrich, Daniel Kelly, and John Lapetina. "United States Patent Application: 0130044042." United States Patent Application: 0130044042. Google INC., 18 Aug. 2011. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.
19. OMAP." en.wikipedia.org. N.p., 11 Feb. 2014. Web. 7 Mar. 2014.
20. POLARIZATION BEAM SPLITTER AND OPTICAL SYSTEM." freepatentsonline.com. N.p., 22 Sept. 2011. Web. 4 Mar. 2014.
21. Polyester." en.wikipedia.org. N.p., 4 Mar. 2014. Web. 5 Mar. 2014.
22. "Printed Circuit Board." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.
23. Product Category Rules (PCR) for Preparing an Environmental Product Declaration (EPD) for USB Flash Drive." Pcr-library. Transcend Information, Inc., 31 Mar. 2011. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.
24. "Resistor." science.howstuffworks.com. N.p., 2014. Web. 5 Mar. 2014.
25. "Thermally conductive pad." en.wikipedia.org. N.p., 23 Feb. 2014. Web. 6 Mar. 2014.
26. Torborg, Scott, and Star Simpson. "What's Inside Google Glass?." catwig.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Mar. 2014.
27. Tyson, Jeff, and Dave Coustan. "How RAM Works." computer.howstuffworks.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Mar. 2014.
28. Voo, Brian. "How Google Glass Works." hongkiat.com. N.p., 2013. Web. 29 Feb. 2014.
29. “What is a silicon chip?." topics.info.com. N.p., 2013. Web. 6 Mar. 2014
Embodied Energy of the Google Glass
Digital electronics are huge. Some devices may be small in size, but the industries involved are so ubiquitous that it is difficult to comprehend. For this project, our group decided to choose a very specific device: the Google Glass. The Google Glass is a computer that is worn like a pair of glasses. The device interacts with the user through a display, touch pad, microphone, and speaker. By choosing a particular product, we hoped to explore the transparency in the companies involved in the production of the Google Glass. As a complete digital device, the Google Glass is not the product of a sole company. Although the product is branded as a Google Glass, Google is not responsible for the production of any of the hardware of the device. Google's role is in the engineering of the overall device and the device's software. The actual physical device is the combined product of parts made by several different companies around the world. The various pieces are then assembled into the finished product by a huge multinational electronics manufacturing company named Foxconn 2 . This outsourcing of production for digital devices is the norm, not an outlier. Cellular phones and other portable electronics share many components with the Google Glass. By studying the case of the Google Glass, it should be found that even smaller digital electronics represent a large quantity of embodied energy due to the processes required during production, transportation, recycling, and extensive consumption.
To begin, there is no documentation specifically dealing with the embodied energy associated with the Google Glass. With this consideration in mind, one must start by breaking the device down into its components. Once the components are known, the production, transportation and recycling of the device can be roughly analyzed. Luckily, Scott Torborg and Star Simpson have posted images of a disassembled Google Glass on the website catwig.com 9 . Figure 1, Figure 2, and Figure 3 are images provided by the aforementioned article. Figure 1 shows an exploded view of the device without the titanium frame. Figure 2 shows a closer look at the main circuit board of the device. Figure 3 is a picture of the reverse side of the board seen in Figure 2.The main circuit board of the device will be a large focus of this report. The main circuit board has many components that are shared with other portable devices such as cell phones. By examining the case of the Google Glass, a parallel can be drawn to other digital devices and vice versa.
On the main board we see three main chips on the front and two on the back. The three chips on front are: a SanDisk 16GB flash memory module, an Elpida mobile DRAM module, and a Texas Instruments OMAP4430 SoC (System on a Chip). The two main chips on the back are: a SiRFstarIV GSD4e GPS engine and a Bluetooth/WiFi module. Each of the aforementioned components is designed and manufactured by companies separate from Google. In fact, the combination of Google, Foxconn, SanDisk, Elpida, Texas Instruments, and the manufacturers of the WiFi and GPS modules account for only a small portion of the groups responsible for the total product. It is very difficult to find out where the smaller parts such as surface-mounted resistors and capacitors originate from. Parts for the product are manufactured all around the world and then transported to Foxconn to be assembled. In some ways, this is astounding. However, it also makes the analysis of the total embodied energy of the product very difficult.
Texas Instruments is one company involved in making a part used in the Google Glass. Texas instruments fabricates the OMAP4430 SoC used in the Google Glass. The OMAP4430 is an ARM dual-core central processing unit and a graphics processing unit combined on the same chip. The OMAP4430 is also used in several other consumer electronic devices such as the Amazon Kindle Fire and the Samsung Galaxy S II. The multifunction nature of the OMAP4430 enables the Google Glass to use less chips because the OMAP4430 already fulfills multiple functions. This sort of consolidation helps digital devices greatly. Having less chips enables the small size of the Google Glass. It also means that slightly less embodied energy is associated with the device. Fabrication of silicon chips is a very complex and energy-intensive process. Because of this, companies like Texas Instruments use a lot of power. However, Texas Instruments is one company that has been open about sharing information about the company's energy usage and the company's plan to reduce it as much as possible.
On the Texas Instruments website, I found a document about the company's energy usage in the year 2011. They start out by outlining their “energy-related achievements.” Among these achievements is, “Being recognized by the Center for Sustainable Development … for adopting and implementing innovative solutions in energy efficiency and renewable energy.” In the results section of the report, Texas Instruments states that it saved $7.1 million from energy efficiency and another $1.5 million from reduced water consumption. Texas Instruments then reveals to us their total energy usage during the year 2011. The article says, “TI's overall energy use globally was 10.7 million British thermal units (MMBTUs) or 3,123 million kilowatt hours.” To put this in scale, eia.gov states that the average annual electricity consumption for a United States home was 10,837 kilowatt hours. This means that Texas Instruments used more energy in one year than 280,000 United States homes. Texas Instruments reports that it takes a fairly small amount of energy to manufacture a single semiconductor chip. The reason they use so much energy is because they manufacture billions of them each year. Each wafer goes through a large number of processing to become a functioning set of chips.
So. How much energy does it take to manufacture a single semiconductor chip? Unfortunately, this question has a complex answer. Texas Instruments states in their annual report that they reduced the energy required to design, market and manufacture a chip by 33 percent from 2005 to 2011. How exactly they managed to do this is unclear. However, recent semiconductor chips use a much finer fabrication process than chips made in 2005. A good way of measuring this is by looking at what fabrication size was used. Semiconductor manufacturing processes are generally rated by the dimension of one side of a metal oxide semiconductor field effect transistor (MOSFET). In early 2006, Intel released its Pentium 4 “Cedar Mill” CPU line. This line of CPUs was made using 65nm manufacturing technology. In 2011, Intel announced “Ivy Bridge.” Ivy Bridge is a line of 22nm CPUs. By doing a little math we can see that about 8.7 Ivy Bridge transistors fit in the same space as one Cedar Mill transistor. This means that newer processors are much more efficient in their use of actual silicon. However, this also means it is very difficult to obtain device-specific embodied energies.
I found no product-specific figures in my search to find an estimate of the embodied energy associated with a Google Glass. All I could find were rough estimates of the required energy for different materials and processes. On MIT's website, I found a tool to estimate materials and manufacturing energy for a product 8 . While reading through the report, it can be noticed that the embodied energies are somewhat reliant on the manufacturing method. For example, Silicon wafers are processed in different sizes. During fabrication of silicon chips, large silicon crystals are produced. These crystals are in the shape of a large cylinder. The diameter of these crystals is relevant to calculate the embodied energy of the wafer manufacturing. The report estimates that a 150mm wafer has an energy requirement of 9.7 kWh/g. The report also estimates that a 300mm wafer has an energy requirement of 4.6 to 5.2 kWh/g. This is a rather large variance. The energy/mass required for a 150mm wafer is roughly double the energy required for a 300mm wafer. However, the 200mm wafer is most likely what the majority of the chips in the Google Glass were manufactured with 1 .
Now it can really become apparent why the silicon chip is the emphasis of this report on the embodied energy of a Google Glass. The average embodied energy of a 200mm wafer is around 8.6 kWh/g. Usually embodied energy for a product is measured in MJ/kg. For example, many varieties of plastics are estimated to represent an embodied energy of about 80 MJ/kg 2 . So how many MJ/kg is 8.6 kWh/g equivalent to? The answer is close to 31,000 MJ/kg or 31 GJ/kg. This number is almost 400 times the embodied energy of plastics per unit mass. Luckily, individual chips tend to be very small and therefore low mass. However, 1 gram of fabricated chips still has the embodied energy of almost 400 grams of plastic. This makes the plastic casing of the Google Glass seem almost irrelevant. This large energy also means that devices with high chip counts have very large embodied energies. The MIT report estimates that a laptop PC has almost the same embodied energy as a washing machine. A laptop PC was estimated to range from about 3140MJ to 3769 MJ per PC. A washing machine was estimated to range from about 3494 MJ to 3900 per machine.
Like other digital devices, the Google Glass is not entirely made up of chips and plastic. There are other components such as resistors, the battery, printed circuit boards, and a metal frame. While I was able to find the composition of surface-mounted components, I could not get an idea of where the ones in the Google Glass were manufactured. I could also not discover how much energy is associated with the manufacturing of these components. Nevertheless, I was able to find information on the embodied energies of titanium (the material used for the Google Glass frame) and printed circuit boards. Articles estimated the embodied energy of titanium to be about 920 MJ/kg 2 . The MIT estimation tool estimates the manufacturing energy of a ½ lay 3.75kg/m2 printed circuit board to be about 151 MJ/kg 8 . These numbers are higher than plastics, but are much lower than the energy requirement of the Lithium-ion battery. A mobile 24g lithium-ion battery for the HTC Dream was analyzed to have a total embodied energy of around 89MJ (this includes transportation and disposal as well) 10 . This means that the lithium-ion battery has an embodied energy per unit mass of about 3600 MJ/kg. That figure is almost triple the embodied energy of titanium.
While manufacture is a main concern in a discussion about embodied energy of a product, it is not the only one. It should be understood that the embodied energy of a product also includes raw material extraction and processing. A third important energy concern occurs when examining the recycling of a product. How efficient is it to recycle digital electronics? The short answer to this question is: not very efficient. However, digital electronics contain valuable materials such as copper, iron, nickel, and gold. Some of these materials can be extracted through different methods. The problem is that many of the materials are also hazardous. This is the reason why people are urged to properly dispose of their electronics. There is another problem. There is not a large enough capacity for e-waste recycling where it is most needed. Most of the e-waste from the United States and other developed countries is exported to other countries. Most of the time, the waste is exported to a country where it is cheaper to process due to a lack of worker and environment protection. One such country is China. Much of the e-waste from the United States is exported to China and then processed in hazardous ways. This adds energy to the life cycle of the portion of electronics that are recycled.
To conclude, the embodied energy of digital products is tricky to investigate. Parts of the device are made all over the world and then shipped to one place to be assembled. Calculating the total energy of this transportation would be extremely difficult and would pale in comparison to the manufacture energy of the silicon wafers. The Google Glass is a device similar to other portable electronics. While the chips inside of the device are small, their energy impact is huge. The energy required to manufacture the chips is more than the energy a Google Glass is likely to use during its life cycle. To make matters worse, these portable devices are often only kept by their owners for a short length of time and then disposed of. The only obvious long-term solution for these problems is a decrease in production and consumption. Still, there will continue to be demand for new devices on the market such as the Google Glass.
1. Pierret, Robert F. Semiconductor Device Fundamentals. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company. March 1996.
2. "How Much Energy Does It Take (on Average) to Produce 1 Kilogram of the following Materials?" 'LOW-TECH MAGAZINE' LOW-TECH MAGAZINE, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.
Information about embodied energies of titanium and plastics.
Tung, Liam. "Google Glass to Roll off Foxconn's US Factory Line in Weeks." ZDNet. CBS Interactive, 28 Mar. 2013. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.
Brain, Marshall. "How Lithium-ion Batteries Work." HowStuffWorks. Discovery, 14 Nov. 2006. Web. 08 Feb. 2014.
"How Products Are Made." How Microphone Is Made. Advameg, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.
Mitchell, Bradley. "How Much Power Does a Network Router Consume?" About.com Wireless / Networking. About.com, 11 June 2009. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.
"The monster footprint of digital technology?" 'LOW-TECH MAGAZINE' LOW-TECH MAGAZINE, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.
Ciceri, N. Duque. “A Tool to Estimate Materials and Manufacturing Energy for a Product.” Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Web. 6 March 2014.
Torborg, Scott. “What's Inside Google Glass?” Web. 6 March 2014
http://www.wikipedia.org (various articles)
10. Li-ion battery: Consumption Facts.” WattzOn. Web. 6 March 2014.
“2011 performance.” Texas Instruments. Web. 6 March 2014.
Final Project: March 13, 2014
Google Glass’s Emissions and Waste
A growing trend that companies are partaking in is marking their labels as “Made in USA,” since products not only appear more environmentally conscious to consumers, but also give off the impression of improving the countries economy. The Google Glass is on of these products that is lauded on the Internet as an innovative device that will bring more business into the United States since because of its assembly cite is in California. Though this is not entirely true since Google does not make all the parts of the Glass in The US, but only assembles the devices. Four major companies that are involved in the production of the Google Glass are Synaptics, Texas Instrument, CSR and SanDisk. Each company emits a certain amount of CO2 and produces quite a bit of waste, and each of them have manufacturing cites outside of the United States, revealing that the Google Glass is not as homegrown or as green as it may first appear.
The Scope of emissions is important information that pertains to determining the environmental impact of certain companies. There are three scopes that can be calculated: scope 1, scope 2 and scope 3. According to The Green House Protocol, “Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions from owned or controlled sources. Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions from the generation of purchased energy. Scope 3 emissions are all indirect emissions (not included in scope 2) that occur in the value chain of the reporting company, including both upstream and downstream emissions.” (FAQ of Green House Protocol) For the sake of simplicity, this paper will try and only focus on scope 1 and 2 emissions, since it focuses less on each companies overall footprint, and more on their emissions and waste from manufacturing. (Chan)
According to Google’s report on its own emissions, its scope 1 emissions are 37,187 tCO2e and its scope 2 emissions are 1,149,988 tCO2e. Google itself has invested over $780 dollars in renewable energy and technology development. Google plays a very important role in renewable energy, and invests heavily in renewable technologies. Due to its green reputation, many people would assume that Google’s products would also be green. Looking closer in the companies it has chosen for manufacturing its parts, it’s clear that this isn’t entirely true. (Field and Mary)
The Google Glass is being assembled by Foxconn in Santa Clara (Mack). As mentioned before, most companies locate productions locally to reduce their emissions. Foxconn has committed to reduce its green house gas emissions by using GreenCert software, a technology, which aims to reduce green house emissions from factory plants (GreenCert Software Launched in Asia). Its goal is to not only reduce emissions but also lower prices of production. But Foxconn provides no additional information about its emissions or any specific information about its assembly site in Santa Clara. For this reason, there is no solid way to see if Foxconn is truly committed to reduces its emissions, since it hasn’t made it’s CO2 emissions available to the public. But before the Google Glass is assembled in California, many of its different parts are built and then shipped to the assembly site.
The engineering company Synaptics makes the touch pad for the Google Glass, which is located on the side of the Glass’s module. The touch pad’s technical name is Synaptics T1320A touchpad controller. (Torborg and Star) The company of Synaptics got a score of 99 out of a 100 according to Amme.com’s score of sustainability. Though, after looking deeper into Synaptics’ practices, there is more to their sustainability than meets the eye. The company itself has not officially reported it’s waste emissions, water emissions and hazardous waste production. It has a carbon footprint of 99. A score of 99 would indicate that Synaptics is 99% more efficient than other business within the same industry that are of a similar size. (SYNAPTIC DIGITAL LIMITED)
According to its website, Synaptics has also made a commitment to eliminate environmentally hazardous products such as the chemicals, halogen, PVC, and phthalate. (Why Halogen Free?) Halogens are a common material used in many products, especially technological products such as cellphones and computers. At the end of their life, these products are burned as a common form of disposal. If electronics contain Halogens, dangerous byproducts called dioxins are released. Dioxins are known to cause cancer in people and are also known to resist degradation in the environment. (Social Responsibility: Synaptics) PVC, which is also a major source of phthalate, is also known to interfere with normal hormonal functioning, and can lead to birth defects in children. It is also known, like dioxins within Halogens, to be a major carcinogen. From this information, it can be inferred that Synaptics is concerned about emissions, but could be more transparent with its waste and emissions. (Why Halogen Free?)
According to Synaptics’ 2013 Annual Report, the company has factories located in San Jose, New York, Texas, Georgia and Idaho. This would indicate that almost all their products are manufactured in the USA. However, somewhere within Item 7 on the Report, they do also say that they have manufacturing cites in China, and there is no specific information on where the T1320A touchpad controller is manufactured. Therefore, there is little or no way to determine the CO2 emissions from shipping the products to Santa Clara. (Mackey) Synaptics also ships millions of its products worldwide every year. In 2013 alone, it shipped over 800 millions of its touchscreen products worldwide. (Mackey) There was no information available about their annual CO2 emissions and waste production, so I cannot determine the amount of waste and CO2 emissions for the touchpad.
Another component of the Google Glass its its processor. Texas Instrument was responsible for making the processor for the Google Glass. The specific processor used was the TI OMAP4430. Texas Instrument attempts to diminish its greenhouse emissions mainly in the manufacturing cites in the United States such as the one in Houston and Northern Texas. TI’s main environmental concern is reducing the amount of smog that is released into the atmosphere. In 2010, its factories released 20.1 tons of toxic emissions into the air and .3 tons into the water. In 2011, Texas Instrument released 99.9 metric tons of Nitrogen, which is an atmospheric pollutant. It emits a total of 83.6 tons of VOC, which are volatile organic compounds, into the air. (2011 Corporate Citizenship Report) VOCs are known to be hazardous to individuals. Formaldehyde, which is a type of carcinogen and a subtype of VOC, are the only VOCs which are regulated by the government’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (An Introduction to Indoor Air Quality: VOCs).
In 2011, Texas Instrument reported about 1.5 MMTCO2e. (Million Metric Ton of Carbon Dioxide-Equivalent). To think of 1.5 MMTCO2e in terms of volume, the volume of 1.5 MMTCO2e is equal to the volume of air in 750 Empire State Buildings. (United States C.E.P. Agency) If that still doesn’t drive the point home, according to Southwest Climate Change, “One metric ton of CO2 is released to the atmosphere for every 103 gallons of gasoline used.” This amount is not unusual for a company the size of Texas Instrument, and it takes into account all its CO2 emissions. As a comparison, and once again according to southwestclimatechange.org, “one metric ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) is produced to the meet the average monthly energy demand of the typical American household.” (Abraham)
But specifically focusing on Texas Instrument’s waste, Texas Instrument produced 33.4 million metric kg of waste in 2011. About 19.2 million kg of that was from industrial use and 14.2 were from nonindustrial usage. Of that 33.4 million, about 2.9 million kg of it were recycled. Of the recycled waste that was produced, 8.3% was of corrugated cardboard, 14.5% were various metals, 21% were plastics and 28.2% was other materials. Only about 12.5% of the waste was sent to landfills. It should also be noted that there was a significant drop in waste from 2010, which had 56.1 million kg of waste. (2011 Corporate Citizenship Report.)
Texas Instrument has produced over 100,000 analog ICs and embedded processors. So if you were to divide the total amount of CO2 emissions by the number of products they produced, you would get about 1.5 tons of C02 emitted for each product. Now, this is a very rough estimate, but no information was available online for the carbon footprint of TI OMAP4430 processor so this rough estimate is the only way to specifically quantify the processor’s impact. If we were to use this same method again to determine the amount of waste per product, it would be about 334 kg of waste for each processor. (TI Fact Sheet) Additionally, Texas Instrument also provided its Scope scores on the PWC report. Its scope 1 score was 827,274 tCO2e scope 2 score was 1,588,466 t CO2e. (Abraham)
Also on the main CPU board, there is also a SiRFstarIV GSD4e GPS engine, which is a RF device. An RF device is also known as a radio frequency device. The manufacturer of this engine is the company CSR. The waste recycled by CSR in 2011 was 115,014 kgs. That was the only information that was found on the company’s Health, Safety & Environment page. However, by looking at their annual report, there was more information given about their emissions and waste production. (Gardiner) Their 115,014 kgs of recycled waste makes up approximately 61% of all the waste their company produces, which would mean that 39% of their waste isn’t recycled. Or, in terms of kilograms, about 73,534 kgs of waste wasn’t recycled. That would mean that CSR produced about 188,548 kgs of waste in 2011. (Torrance)
In 2011/12, the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) reported that CSR emitted about 4054 metric tons of CO2. Also according this the CRC’s Energy Efficiency Scheme, CSR ranked as number 908 on their list out of about 2000 other companies with their emissions. (2011/2012 - CRC Performance League Table) There are no reports and information on the hazardous emissions produced by CSR. This could either mean that the company produces no hazardous waste, or it does and hasn’t reported it. According CSR’s annual report again, “the Board is satisfied that there are no significant risks relating to health, safety and environmental matters affecting its strategic objectives or the long or short term value of the Group.” (Torrance) There was no information on the number of products that CSR produces per year, either by the company or a third party, so there is no way to determine the emissions and waste from one single product.
SanDisk was in charge of making the Glass’s memory chip, with was named the SanDisk 16GB Flash, Elpida 1GB Mobile DDR2 RAM. According to Mother Nature Network, SanDisk doesn’t use polyvinyl chloride (PVC) in its products. As mentioned before, PVC emissions are known to lead to cancer. Expanding on the points that were made earlier about PVC, it is also extremely difficult to recycle, and often gets thrown into landfills. So by avoiding the use of PVS, SanDisk cuts down on its harmful emissions and unnecessary waste. (Sandisk and the Environment)
The only information available about SanDisk’s CO2 Emissions and waste are on the page on their website titled, “Proactive Environmental Efforts in Our Products.” Otherwise their website provides no information. They did link their CDP assessment on their website, but to access it, you need a subscription. From all the information available online, SanDisk is not very transparent with information regarding their CO2 emissions and waste management. (Environmental Responsibility SanDisk) However, PWS did report on the companies’ scope scores. SanDisk has a scope 1 score of 3,486 tCO2e and a scope 2 score of 95,576 tCO2e. (C) SanDisk hasn’t provided information about the amount of products it produces annually, so I can not even roughly estimate the CO2 emissions and waste production of the memory chip.
The last specific product that was included in the Google glass, and that was produced by a major company, was the microphone. Wolfson was in charge of creating the Wolfson WM7231 MEMS microphone. The company hasn’t released any emissions regarding its manufacturing, but to comply with a new law that will arise in the UK, they will release their emissions in its 2013 annual report. But their 2012 report doesn’t give any specifics on emissions or waste. Therefore there is no way to determine the waste and emissions of the microphone. (Annual Report and Accounts 2012)
Since the Google Glass hasn’t gone into mainstream production yet, and only a few thousand are out in the world, there is no comprehensive plan for how they would be recycled or discarded. There are many issues with the way that waste is being disposed of electronics in general though, since emissions don’t just stop after a product has been produced.
One common method for disposing of electronic waste is by incinerators. For obvious reasons, this heavily pollutes the environment. It’s estimated that incineration is the cause of 36 tons of mercury and 16 tons of cadmium being emitted into the air in the European Union alone. Some materials from electronics are recycled, but usually these are precious metals that are actually “worth” the time put in to recycling them. (L., Mobile Phone Recyling)
Recycling is a step up from this incineration process, since it avoids putting as much waste back into the environment. A common process that can be applied to recycling the Google Glass, is the process for recycling cellphones. Both the Cellphone and Glass have similar properties and parts, so it isn’t too much of a stretch to assume they would be disposed of in similar ways. Or it can be buried, but once again, this would have adverse affects on the environment.
The main materials recycled in cellphones are Cadium and Nickel. Nickel is usually recycled to be reused in other electronics and appliances, while Cadium is used again to make new batteries. The recycling process also targets precious metals like gold, silver and lead. As mentioned before, these materials are considered to be “worth” the effort put into recycling them. (L., Mobile Phone Recyling)
Perhaps the Google Glass was a bit too ambitious of a project for determining a full life cycle. It was impossible to find a specific component’s impact on the environment; whether it was the memory chip, a processor or a touchpad. So I decided to instead focus on each company’s CO2 emissions and waste production, and thought to perhaps divide those by the number of products each company produced. Even that was difficult to do, because most companies are extremely reluctant to release information about all these things, and third parties have an even harder time finding out the information for themselves. Overall I found the Google Glass to be an ambitious attempt to remain local (in the United States) and environmentally friendly. Unfortunately I think that the companies that produced parts for the Google Glass might have had other ambitions in mind.
Abraham, Joe. "What Is One Million Metric Ton of Carbon Dioxide-Equivalent?" Southwest Climate Change Network. Arizona Board of Regents, 22 June 2009. Web. 11 Mar. 2014.
"An Introduction to Indoor Air Quality: Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)." EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2014.
Annual Report and Accounts 2012. Rep. Edinburgh: Wolfson Microelectronics Plc, 2012. Print.
Chan, Caine. "Scope 1,2, and 3 Emissions Types." Smarter, Faster, Cooler Carbon Management. Cool Climate Network, n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2014.
"Environmental Responsibility." SanDisk Corporate Responsibility:. SanDisk Corporation, 2014. Web. 11 Mar. 2014.
Field, Joanna, and Mary, Catherine Fixel. CDP S&P 500 Climate Change Report 2013. Rep. New York: CDP, 2013. Print.
"Frequently Asked Questions." Green House Protocol FAQ. GHP, n.d. Web.
Gardiner, Will. "Health, Safety & Environment." CSR PLC. CSR Plc., 28 Mar. 2013. Web. 11 Mar. 2014.
"GreenCert Software Launched in Asia." Widgets RSS. American City Business Journals, 4 Mar. 2009. Web. 11 Mar. 2014.
L., Martin. "Mobile Phone Recycling – How the Process Works." Our Everyday Earth. Our Everyday Earth – Green Blog, 12 July 2014. Web. 11 Mar. 2014.
Mack, Eric. "Google Glasses: Google Glass to Be Made in the USA, but Still by Foxconn." Google Glasses: Google Glass to Be Made in the USA, but Still by Foxconn. Blogspot, 13 Mar. 2013. Web. 11 Mar. 2014.
Mackey, Bob. Innovations in Touch Sensing. Rep. Boston: Synaptics, 2012. Print.
"Sandisk and the Environment." MNN. MNN HOLDING, 1 Apr. 2011. Web. 11 Mar. 2014.
"Social Responsibility." Synaptics. Synaptics Incorporated, 2011. Web. 11 Mar. 2014.
"SYNAPTIC DIGITAL LIMITED." AMEE. AMEE, 2011. Web. 11 Mar. 2014.
"TI Fact Sheet." TI Fact Sheet. Texas Instruments Incorporated, 2013. Web. 11 Mar. 2014.
Torborg, Scott, and Star Simpson. "What's Inside Google Glass?" Google Glass Teardown. Catwig, 2013. Web. 11 Mar. 2014.
Torrance, Jeffery. CSR Plc Annual Report 2011. Rep. Cambridge: CSR Plc., 2011. Print.
United States. California Environmental Protection Agency. Air Resources Board. Conversion of 1 MMT CO2 to Familiar Equivalents. By Nunez and Pavley. Sacramento: California Air Resources Board, 2007. Print.
"Why Halogen Free?" Slide Share. ALPHA, 1 Apr. 2010. Web. 11 Mar. 2014.
2011 Corporate Citizenship Report. Rep. N.p.: Texas Instruments Incorporated, n.d. Print.
"2011/2012 - CRC Performance League Table." CRC. CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme, 2012. Web. 11 Mar. 2014.