High-performance Solar Cells Made of Discarded Solar Panels

High-performance Solar Cells Made of Discarded Solar Panels


Researchers have developed a non-destructive technology to recycle discarded solar panels to make high-performance solar cells. The technology will be critical in a few decades when solar panels currently in use are discarded at the end after being used for 20 years.
 
A solar panel is a photovoltaic module made of materials such as glass, aluminum, silicon, and copper. It uses sunlight as an energy source to generate direct currents. A solar cell is a black mirrored electrical device that is a key component of a solar panel. Scientists in South Korea have researched technology to maximize the efficiency of recycling solar panels.
 
A technology developed by a research team led by Lee Jin-seok enables the recycling of solar panels, the Korea Energy Research Institute (KIER) said in a statement on 19, August. The research institute says the new technology can recycle both undamaged and damaged panels, enabling a 100 percent recycling rate for glass components. About 80 percent of other materials can be recycled and turned into high-performance solar cells. The researchers were able to refine silicon collected from 72 discarded commercial panels into a 6 inch monocrystalline ingots and wafers. The recovered material is used to produce solar cells, which have a power generation efficiency of about 20.52%. The energy efficiency of ordinary solar cells is about 15%.
 
KIER chief researcher Lee Jin-seok was quoted as saying that recycling one ton of discarded solar panels has the effect of reducing 1.2 tons of greenhouse gases, so this technology is absolutely the key to achieving net zero emissions. KIER has transferred this technology to the domestic solar power equipment manufacturer HST for commercialization. According to the Korea Environmental Research Institute, the country will discard about 27,627 tonnes of panels by 2032.
 
In order to achieve zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050, South Korea has strengthened its green energy generation capacity. The country's solar power generation capacity is growing rapidly, with about 21,820 solar generators built as of November 2020 and a total output of about 3.65 gigawatts (GW). One gigawatt of capacity produces electricity that can power about 300,000 homes for a year.