"Microwave technology invented at Australia’s Macquarie University promises to
deliver “massive savings of energy” in the manufacture of solar cells, while
also making them easier to recycle at the other end of their life cycle.
In a paper published in the US Journal Applied Physics Letters
, a Macquarie
Uni team led by Dr Binesh Puthen Veettil has shown that microwave radiation
works just as well to “anneal” solar cells – a high-temperature process usually
performed by cooking them in an oven.
The study has shown that not only is heating the cells using microwave
radiation “nearly as efficient” as traditional processes, but it saves
considerable time and energy and offers other advantages – including for the
sustainability of the cells.
“Because microwave radiation selectively heats silicon, it leads to almost
instantaneous effects with massive savings of energy,” the School of
Engineering team says.
“This is partly because the rest of the laminated panel of glass, plastic and
aluminium is left largely unaffected. And that property that has led to an
unexpected recycling benefit for which the group has a patent pending.”
The researchers explain that the unexpected benefit worth patenting is that
under microwave treatment, the plastic coat that protects the silicon softens
to the point where it can be peeled off mechanically.
This means the silicon plates can be easily delaminated and their components
reused without the need for harsh chemicals – and a much stronger economic case
can be made against just dumping old panels in landfill."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics