IBM was recognized as one of the "Top 20 Best Workplaces for Commuters" by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2005. The award was to recognize Fortune 500 companies which provided employees with excellent commuter benefits to help reduce traffic and air pollution.
The birthplace of IBM, Endicott, suffered pollution for decades, however. IBM used liquid cleaning agents in circuit board assembly operation for more than two decades, and six spills and leaks were recorded, including one leak in 1979 of 4,100 gallons from an underground tank. These left behind volatile organic compounds in the town's soil and aquifer. Trace elements of volatile organic compounds have been identified in Endicott’s drinking water, but the levels are within regulatory limits. Also, from 1980, IBM has pumped out 78,000 gallons of chemicals, including trichloroethane, freon, benzene and perchloroethene to the air and allegedly caused several cancer cases among the townspeople. IBM Endicott has been identified by the Department of Environmental Conservation as the major source of pollution, though traces of contaminants from a local dry cleaner and other polluters were also found. Despite the amount of pollutant, state health officials could not verify whether air or water pollution in Endicott has actually caused any health problems. According to city officials, tests show that the water is safe to drink.
Tokyo Ohka Kogyo Co., Ltd. (TOK) and IBM are collaborating to establish new, low-cost methods for bringing the next generation of solar energy products, called CIGS (Copper-Indium-Gallium-Selenide) solar cell modules, to market. Use of thin film technology, such as CIGS, has great promise in reducing the overall cost of solar cells and further enabling their widespread adoption.
IBM is exploring four main areas of photovoltaic research: using current technologies to develop cheaper and more efficient silicon solar cells, developing new solution processed thin film photovoltaic devices, concentrator photovoltaics, and future generation photovoltaic architectures based upon nanostructures such as semiconductor quantum dots and nanowires.
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