The chipmaker said its "green" processors would start with its next generation Core 2 Duo, Core 2 Quad, and Xeon products. Production of the 45-nanometer processors is set to begin the second half of this year.
Behind the tech industry's drive for greener products is the demand by businesses for more energy efficiency, particular in the processors used in powering computer servers. Chips that provide a higher performance-to-power ratio reduce overall energy usage.
In moving toward lead-free processors, Intel is apparently giving a nod to environmental groups that have called on the industry for years to reduce the use of dangerous materials found in computers, which often end up in landfills, despite recycling programs offered by many computer makers.
Along with calls from activists, consumers are also putting pressure on tech companies. Surveys show that 80% of consumers believe it is important to buy from companies with environmentally safe products.
Lead is used in a variety of "packages" that wrap around chips and ultimately connect them to the motherboard, Intel said. The metal is also used in attaching chips to the packages. The package designs, which are in desktops, notebooks, and servers, will all be lead free in 45-nm chips starting this year, and in 2008 for 65-nm chipset products, Intel said.
Lead, which can cause neurological damage in humans if ingested, has been used in electronics for decades. Intel produced its first lead-free flash memory products in 2002, and began shipping processors with 95% less led in 2004. To eliminate the remaining 5%, Intel plans to use a tin-silver-copper alloy as solder in building chips.