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Researchers turn reclaimed silicon to solar cell

Posted: 27 Mar 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:solar cell? photovoltaic market? silicon reclaimed?

Researchers from Swansea University's School of Engineering, in collaboration with Pure Wafer International Ltd, have developed a low-cost solar cell, which is made from reclaimed silicon, a by-product of the semiconductor industry.

The cells developed by Swansea University and Pure Wafer are designed to reduce energy costs because they have been incorporated into modules which are made up of around 90 connecting cells that can generate a greater amount of electrical power than stand-alone cells.

The solar cell developed in Swansea is made from reclaimed silicon, a waste product from Pure Wafer's core semiconductor wafer reclaim business. The silicon is typically shipped overseas to be reprocessed into lower quality crystalline photovoltaic (PV) cells.

Several materials can be used to fabricate PV cells but crystalline silicon dominates the solar market with around 90 percent of cells being made from silicon.

Owen Guy, lecturer in electronics at the School of Engineering, and the Swansea academic leading the project said: "Our first prototype cell achieved an efficiency of 14 percent, but we hope to get closer to 20 percent with our next attempt that's five percent better than current commercial cells."

Pure Wafer's new technologies leader Simon Conway said: "The project consortium, which also involves three other Welsh businesses aims to manufacture low-cost, high-efficiency PV modules in Wales by 2010. We are also developing novel thin-wafer technology which reduces the amount of silicon used in the solar cellscutting costs even further."

Pure Wafer's chief operating officer, Keith Baker, said: "Climate change and the limited supply of fossil and nuclear fuels demands urgent action to generate renewable energy. The photovoltaic market is expected to grow rapidly within the next 20 years. It is already worth more than $9 billion annually worldwide and silicon cells account for 90 percent of today's solar electricity. This project is a shining example of how the University and businesses can work together to develop key technologies which will lead to high-skilled jobs, economic growth and a cleaner environment."

- Paul Buckley
Power Management DesignLine Europe

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