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Reference PC designs – Intel’s Path to Achieving a 30% Platform Carbon Reduction by 2030

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Often, the climate change challenge can be intimidating, especially when we as a company are trying to deliver ever-increasing levels of compute performance gen-over-gen.  That’s why I’m personally inspired by the opportunity to scale our impact by reducing the carbon footprint of our PC reference designs. Imagine a world where we can provide high performing, beautiful PCs with a minimum of impact to our environment – it may sound like a dream, but through our reference PC design work we’re helping make the dream a reality!


Our team at Intel – an unmatched group of brilliant and innovative colleagues – has been inspired by the opportunity to reduce PC product carbon footprint via our work on PC reference systems. The reference systems are fully designed and developed, and we share these designs to our partners to increase confidence in new technologies. Ultimately, our goal is to reduce the carbon footprint of these reference design systems by 30% by 2030. After looking at models such as the PAIA Streamlined LCA plus our internal research, we decided to focus on reductions on the motherboard, system energy efficiency, and embracing more environmentally friendly chemistries[1].


For instance, with motherboard design we found that we could reduce component count in numerous areas, sometimes replacing several components with a single integrated circuit that provided the same functionality. With the reduced component count we were able to reduce the total motherboard area, helping reduce the carbon footprint associated with manufacturing the board. We’ve also had success in our reference designs simplifying the motherboard design with fewer cutouts – helping reduce the waste and processing involved in the manufacturing process as well.


When it comes to increasing energy efficiency in system design, the Intel team has looked at several innovations. Most notably, we’ve had success employing a higher voltage battery system to make a more efficient system design. And we’ve also made great progress in improving the efficiency of screen power usage – including improving backlight LCD power efficiency in our recent Dell Concept Luna system design (more below)[2].


As our Net Zero announcement highlights, though, one of the key factors to more sustainable system designs is using more environmentally friendly materials. Batteries are a key area in this regard, and we’ve devoted a lot of energy to developing a power architecture that can support Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO) batteries. These LiFePO batteries are important to future system designs since they can last for more than twice as many recharge cycles as current Lithium Cobalt laptop batteries (LiCo)[3].  


We’ve also homed in on the material of the printed circuit board (PCB) itself. In our work we’ve partnered with a third party to explore bio-sourced material that can help reduce the carbon footprint of the PCB both in its production and via faster and easier degradation when it’s discarded. This is a key part of reducing the total carbon footprint of PC products, as e-waste ending up in landfills is a major contributor to the product’s overall environmental impact. In fact, according to the UN e-Waste monitor, 53.6 million metric tons of e-waste were produced globally in 2019, and are forecasted to grow to 74 million metric tons by 2030[4][5]


In just the past year we have seen a lot of validation of our sustainable design work from our system design partners. Some of the biggest PC manufacturers have evolved their focus above and beyond achieving the EPEAT[6] or TCO Ecolabel[7] – taking specific steps to reduce their product carbon footprint. One notable example of this is our work with Dell in the Concept Luna program – a proof-of-concept system design showcasing how more environmentally-friendly system design is possible[8].


This is a critical inflection point for the PC industry in the global fight against climate change. And it’s great seeing our system design partners taking the steps necessary to reduce their product carbon footprint - especially with so many manufacturers and customers committing to reduced or even net zero carbon footprint goals in the years ahead. As PC users, we also have a role to play in making the industry more environmentally sustainable. Rather than simply discarding our PC products once we’re done with them or have gone through a refresh, we should all focus on trade-in/donation opportunities with organizations such as Free Geek. Or at the very least, making sure we make use of our local community’s e-waste programs so that our PC systems and parts aren’t ending up in a landfill.


At Intel, we’re constantly innovating to bring the best performance and user experience to PC systems on the market. And with our reference system design program, we’re working to ensure both performance and environmental sustainability work in harmony when it comes to PC system design. A more environmentally sustainable PC industry isn’t a dream – and with Intel’s continued efforts, we can make it a reality sooner rather than later!  



[2] Dell Sustainability Showcase Press Presentation – December 2021







1 Comment

How about working with our partners to have laptops replaceable mother boards, so you could progress with generations of the Intel solution with reduced environmental impact, when having today desktop, I can upgrade from Broadwell to Core 12 with having only replacing the Motherboard, memory and CPU, If I can do the same to my Laptop (plus battery when needed) I could continue to use my laptop for additional cycle. such solution could reduce highly the environmental impact while enabling the consumers to continue and having updated Laptops.