Solar Panel Recycling Solution Found

Solar energy is becoming increasingly popular option for supplemental power, particularly because of its reported environmental impact. However, as solar panels reach the end of their lifespan, the question of how to recycle these materials has become a pressing issue. Researchers from Australia’s Deakin University are working on a groundbreaking solution to this problem.

Deakin University’s Institute for Frontier Materials has been at the forefront of this research, with Dr. Md Mokhlesur Rahman and Prof. Ying (Ian) Chen leading the charge. Their focus is on repurposing the silicon in used solar panels, which is the most valuable component of the panels. This breakthrough could be the missing piece in the puzzle of solar panel recycling.

The team has developed a process to extract silicon from discarded solar panels and then convert it into nano silicon for use in lithium-ion batteries. This innovative approach not only addresses the issue of solar panel waste but also provides a sustainable source of raw battery materials for the future.

The potential impact of this research is enormous. By 2050, it is estimated that there will be around 1.5 million tons of solar panels lying in waste. The ability to recycle and repurpose these materials could generate recovered materials worth $15 billion, based on the 78 million tons of solar panel waste expected to be generated globally by 2050.

The researchers have also found that the recovered silicon can be used in other applications, such as nano-fertilizers and innovative methods for carbon capture. This means that the technology has the potential to create a circular economy in the solar industry, where waste is minimized and resources are reused in a sustainable manner.

Deakin University’s efforts in solar panel recycling are part of a larger initiative called the Recycling and Clean Energy Commercialisation Hub (REACH). This four-year, $380 million project aims to drive new technology in hydrogen, battery storage, and recycling for a circular economy.

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