Dr. Carol A. Handwerker:
Sustainable Electronics - the Canary in the Coal Mine for Planet Earth

Event Date: April 8, 2013
Dr. Carol A. Handwerker


With the creation of consumer electronics with ever increasing impact - positive and negative- on our lives, questions of their global and local sustainability continue to emerge. Sustainability has many dimensions - societal, environmental, and industrial, known colloquially as "people, planet, prosperity."

From mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to manufacturing in China and end-of-life metals recovery in India, electronic products serve as examples of how the impacts of products are currently externalized. This concept of externalizing impacts has been expressed well by Neva Goodwin: "Externalities are impacts generated by one economic actor, which are felt by others, but the market doesn't bring these impacts back to affect the actor that originated them."

Professor Handwerker will discuss what makes electronics "the canary in the coal mine" for people in the developed world and how Purdue faculty from different disciplines are developing a program to educate students to improve the sustainability of future electronics.


Carol Handwerker is the Reinhardt Schuhmann, Jr.  Professor of Materials Engineering, and Environmental and Ecological Engineering at Purdue University, West Lafayette. She has a degree in Art History from Wellesley College, as well as SB, SM, and ScD degrees from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT.  Dr. Handwerker's research program at Purdue is focused on Pb-free interconnects, particularly for high reliability, military, and aerospace electronic systems, on innovative processing strategies and innovative technologies for next-generation on-chip interconnects, printed electronics and microelectronics, on stress relaxation processes in thin films, and on integrating sustainability in the design of new electronic materials, processes, and products.  She is the director of the Purdue-Tuskegee IGERT focused on creating a global traineeship for sustainable electronics.

Prior to joining Purdue in August 2005, Dr. Handwerker served as Chief of the Metallurgy Division at NIST for the last nine of her 21 years at NBS/NIST.  In her role as Division Chief, she led technical programs aimed at developing the materials measurement and standards infrastructure important to US industrial competitiveness and infrastructure protection.   She has been assisting the US microelectronics industry in the worldwide conversion to lead-free solders for printed wiring boards by developing the link between many fundamental science concepts and high volume electronics manufacturing. She is currently a member of the iNEMI Environmental Leadership Steering Committee along with Directors of sustainability from major electronics companies, including Intel, Cisco, Alcatel-Lucent, and IBM, the NRC National Materials and Manufacturing Board, and is co-chairing the congressionally mandated Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative.