Taiwanese consortium develops easily recyclable solar module


ITRI (ITRI) and Taiwanese panel manufacturer URE claim their new PV module is easier to recycle, with minimal PV waste, because it is so easy to disassemble. According to ITRI, 96% of the materials in the module can be recovered, including all of the solar cells and encapsulation glass.

“The cells can be restored to the bare silicon wafer via a reverse dismantling process, and then produced into regenerated cells for use in the manufacturing chain of PV modules,” ITRI’s R&D team told pv magazine.

The module structure.

Image: ITRI

The two entities claim their technology improves on the traditional module structure, which uses thermoset ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) or polyolefin (PO) as encapsulants. These bond materials tightly together, complicating their separation during the recycling process.

By contrast, their new solution uses a thermoset EVA/PO and thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) bi-layered compound as encapsulation material. The bi-layer serves as a buffer, protecting the cells from cracking during the dismantling process. The solution also takes advantage of the melting point of TPE when the module is heated for disassembly.

“The designed low-temperate thermal process gradually decomposes the bi-layer film,” the R&D team said. “By the time the solar modules become obsolete, the module can be easily dismantled into various parts.”

Unlike the processing of commercial-use modules, ITRI says the improved process recovers glass and silicon wafers as a whole, rather than as pellets. It claims that this allows for silver to be extracted from the intact solar wafers.

The R&D team estimates that the technology increases the value of recycling PV modules from around $18 million to $74 million per gigawatt. The manufacturing process is purportedly the same as for standard modules.

ITRI developed the technology, while URE was responsible for the design and production. The module is in compliance with the IEC 61215 and IEC 61730 safety and reliability standards, certified by TÜV Rheinland.

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