TechAustralian scientists pioneer eco-friendly solar panel recycling

Australian scientists pioneer eco‑friendly solar panel recycling

Photovoltaic panel. Photovoltaic installation during assembly.
Photovoltaic panel. Photovoltaic installation during assembly.
Images source: © Licensor

8:53 AM EDT, June 14, 2024

Scientists from Australia have developed a new method for recycling photovoltaic modules, aiming to be both cost-effective and environmentally friendly. In the next several decades, recycling panels will become a significant challenge, making it crucial to develop an optimal method for it.

Photovoltaics are currently very popular. Considering that photovoltaic installations last about 30 years, recycling them will soon become a significant global challenge. It is necessary to develop an efficient and economical method to recover valuable materials with minimal labor and cost.

Scientists from the University of New South Wales have developed a new, uncomplicated, and economically efficient method for recycling photovoltaic panels. Moreover, it is environmentally friendly, making photovoltaics less of an environmental burden even in their final phase of life.

As we read in PV-Magazine, the recycling process of photovoltaic modules consists of three stages: removing cells from the frame, shredding the laminate, and finally, material concentration using electrostatic separation.

The process results in two fractions. The first is a mixture of silver, copper, aluminum, and silicon, while the second is a mixture of glass, silicon, and polymers. The first, more valuable mixture constitutes about 2-3% of the total module mass and can be directly transferred to subsequent manufacturing processes.

Recycling photovoltaic panels - a new method from Australia

Australian scientists claim that their method of recycling photovoltaic modules can be cost-effective even with small amounts of panels, for example, at about 1,100 tons of panels per year. Researchers estimate that their method may be more cost-effective than the FRELP (Full Recovery End-of-Life Photovoltaic) method for small amounts of panels (less than 4,400 tons per year).

The market for recycling photovoltaic panels is expected to grow significantly in the coming decades. As we read in PV-Magazine, by 2030, around 1.9 million tons of waste related to the end of life of photovoltaic systems can be expected. By 2050, this is expected to reach 66 million tons.

Rystad Energy estimates that by 2030, materials recovered from photovoltaic panels will be worth 2.7 billion U.S. dollars. By 2050, this is expected to be over 82 billion U.S. dollars. In comparison, the current value is just 175 million U.S. dollars.

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