Assembly Line

A Clean, Green Way to Recycle Solar Panels

📅 Date:

✍️ Author: Emily Waltz

🔖 Topics: Recycling

🏢 Organizations: 9-Tech

Inside a shipping container in an industrial area of Venice, the Italian startup 9-Tech is taking a crack at a looming global problem: how to responsibly recycle the 54 million to 160 million tonnes of solar modules that are expected to reach the end of their productive lives by 2050. Recovering the materials won’t be easy. Solar panels are built to withstand any environment on Earth for 20 to 30 years, and even after sitting in the sun for three decades, the hardware is difficult to dismantle. In fact, most recycling facilities trash the silicon, silver, and copper—the most valuable but least accessible materials in old solar panels—and recover only the aluminum frames and glass panes.

The founders of 9-Tech say they have a better way. Their process is a noisy one involving a combustion furnace, an ultrasound bath, and mechanical sorting, the vibrations of which shake the floor of the modest freight container where they have been testing their operation for nearly two years. The company uses no toxic chemicals, releases no pollutants into the environment, and recovers up to 90 percent of the materials in a solar panel, says Francesco Miserocchi, chief technology officer at 9-Tech.

Read more at IEEE Spectrum