IBM recycles silicon for solar panels

IBM has developed a new technique to refurbish its scrap wafers so they can be turned into silicon-based solar panels.

IBM recycles silicon for solar panels

According to IBM, the industry scraps around three million wafers every year, which because they are imprinted with IP protected circuits cannot be sent to outside vendors for reclamation and so must be crushed and sent to landfills, or melted down and resold.

However, the company claims that its newly developed technique, which uses deionised water and an abrasive pad to polish the information from the surface of the wafer, can remove all information without damaging the silicon itself, allowing it to be refurbished and sold to companies manufacturing solar panels.

The company says it has plans to share the technology with the rest of the industry, though it has not formalised a timeline for doing so.

Big Blue says that converting the three million wafers scrapped every year into solar panels would be enough to generate 13.5 megawatts of energy, enough to power around 6,000 homes.

Among the other benefits, IBM says the new recycling technology will save it around a million dollars each year in waste disposal.

“One of the challenges facing the solar industry is a severe shortage of silicon, which threatens to stall its rapid growth,” says Charles Bai, chief financial officer of ReneSola, one of China’s fastest growing solar energy companies.

“This is why we have turned to reclaimed silicon materials sourced primarily from the semiconductor industry to supply the raw material our company needs to manufacture solar panels.”

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