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Project overview

Summary

The project will develop a high-temperature metal extraction (pyrometallurgical) process that allows high volume and throughput recycling of end-of-life (EOL) silicon (Si) solar PV cells.

Need

There is a need to process EOL PV Cell and Si waste from manufacturing economically. Global solar PV waste (which contains valuable silver) is anticipated to be 4-14% of total generation capacity by 2030 and will rise to over 80% (~78 million tonnes) by 2050. There is also an abundant Si kerf (slurry) waste generated from the manufacturing process of PV Cells (accounting for up to 45% loss of ultrapure materials), totalling to approximately 160,000 tonnes/year. Processing these resources will provide wealth (by recovering the silver), promote resource efficiency and reduce unnecessary landfill.

Action

This project will develop a novel recycling technique that applies voltage across the reactants to speed up and maximise the removal of impurities (boron and phosphorus) and recovery of silver. The technique will be demonstrated at a pilot scale. This will be realised through studies to establish the fundamental kinetics and thermodynamics of the process and identification of optimum process parameters to inform the design of the reactor and electrode materials.

Outcome

The project will create an innovative and robust recycling process that will enable a greater diversity of waste materials to be processed (EOL-PV, kerf slurry, Si from rice husk and other sources). The process will also aim to recover the high value silver to improve the economics of recycling EOL- PV Cells. Overall, this will be a new, cost effective, resource efficient, process route for rapid production of silicon that can either be embedded into existing production/recycling lines or operated independently.

Additional impact

Four university research jobs will be created through this project. In addition, the process developed will allow the recovery of valuable metals making a small capacity process to be economical (i.e. low capital investment). It is expected that the technology will attract smaller industries and stimulate the creation of many new recycling industries and jobs.

Last updated
02 October 2020
Last updated 02 October 2020

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