A team of UNSW researchers has proposed a novel, simple, cost-effective and environmentally friendly method to recycle silicon PV modules. The process consists of module deframing, laminate shredding and material concentration using electrostatic separation.
The process outputs two fractions: a valuable mixture of silver, copper, aluminium and silicon, and a mixture of mostly glass, silicon and polymers. The valuable mixture accounts for only 2-3% of the total module, which can be forwarded to the downstream industry for further refinement.
Around 1.7 million tonnes of waste volume of end-of-life PV modules are expected by 2030 under the regular loss scenario of a 2016 analysis by the International Energy Agency Photovoltaic Power Systems Programme (IEA PVSP) and the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), with approximately 60 million tonnes expected by 2050.