THURSDAY 26 MARCH, 2009 |
Recycled Silicon For Solar Cells
While a solar panel has a life spanning decades and many panels produced in the
1970's are still operational today, at some stage they will need replacing which
means waste that needs to be dealt with.
A traditional monocrystalline
has very little in non-recyclable materials. The aluminium frames that make up
the bulk of a panel can be easily reclaimed; but dealing with the silicon solar
cells themselves has posed some challenges; particularly for reuse in their
Silicon has dropped in price substantially in recent years, but prime silicon
needed for solar panels still remains the most costly component of a module.
According to SEMI
, a photovoltaic
industry association, some manufacturers use wafers made from reclaimed silicon
to optimise and monitor their manufacturing processes. After testing, reclaimed silicon wafers are then ground and polished and returned, with the cycle repeating until the reclaimed wafer is no longer useable.
Flawed wafers are also sometimes sold to manufacturers of smaller solar powered
devices that can utilise lower quality cells.
developed by researchers at Swansea University's School of
Engineering will give new life to old silicon solar cells and flawed wafers.
The researchers have developed a solar cell made from reclaimed silicon
suitable for use in large solar panels. The researchers claim the technology
could enable people to buy much lower cost, but still highly efficient solar
modules for their homes. Far from being a lower quality product, their first prototype cell achieved
a very respectable conversion efficiency of 14%, but the team is aiming to
get closer to 20% with their next attempt – 5% better than most current commercial cells.
The team is also developing unique thin
technology which reduces the amount of silicon used in the solar cells.
which will cut the costs of production even further.
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