Applied Research

Process Development for Recycling Solar Panels

Celestica

Challenge/Opportunity:

The rapid development and growth of the photovoltaic (PV) market over the past several decades combined with the scarcity of semiconductor materials and the anticipated large quantity of waste PV in the near future has forced many PV manufacturers, public and private agencies, and the governments to look for sustainable recycling strategies and programs. Commercial success of PV technology hinges not only on its competitive edge over the other competing technologies and products, but also on the availability of cost-effective, viable and environmentally friendly PV module recycling techniques. Any recycling strategy must be capable of reducing waste and recovering the valuable materials for reuse at low cost, high efficiency and with minimal impact on the environment. Herein, we propose a simple, yet effective thermo-mechanical technique to separate the components in typical crystalline PV modules. Unlike other technologies, the proposed technique does not require harmful chemicals such as trichloroethylene—a probable and Group 2A carcinogen1-3—to remove organic components of common PV modules, eliminating the need for high capital and operation expenditure and costly and stringent environmental regulations. The proposed technology provides the industrial partner—Celestica—with a robust and practical pathway to recycle unwanted PV modules in an environmentally responsible manner through significant waste and cost reductions, while maintain a high throughput.

Solution/Collaboration:

The goal for this project is to develop a novel, cost-effective process to separate the tempered glass and from the rest of the PV panel to extract rare metals such as iridium and tellurium. The technique under investigation is a combination of thermal and mechanical processes to ensure the economic viability of the recycling process.


Funder:

NSERC - ARD1

Researcher:

Shahram Karimi

Area: Advanced Material Development

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