Experimental, economic and life cycle assessments of recycling end-of-life monocrystalline silicon photovoltaic modules

Mitchell Shyan Wei Lim, Dong He, Jasmine Sie Ming Tiong, Svenja Hanson, Thomas Chung Kuang Yang, Timm Joyce Tiong, Guan Ting Pan, Siewhui Chong

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The utilization of solar technology for clean energy generation has seen a dramatic increase over the past decade. Eyeing the ever-growing solar capacity and the subsequent inevitable deluge of solar panel wastes, the ideal approach to handle End-of-Life (EoL) solar photovoltaic (PV) panels is to recycle their materials for reuse. This present study explores an optimal recycling process with a high resource recovery efficiency on a laboratory scale, which comprises of three main steps: module delamination, acid etching and sequential electrodeposition. High recoveries of 86, 95 and 97% were achieved for silver, lead and aluminum, respectively. The acquired results are further applied in a life cycle assessment. The process was scaled up to simulate an industrial process and its human and environmental impacts were compared to those of the landfilling disposal method, with six main impact categories analyzed and described: global warming potential, human toxicity potential, freshwater ecotoxicity potential, acidification potential, eutrophication potential and ozone depletion potential. Mitigation strategies are also proposed. Lastly, economic analysis demonstrated that at a treatment capacity of 892.5 kg/h, the process is feasible with an internal revenue rate of 28.2% and a payback time of less than a year, provided the waste collection is subsidized.

Original languageEnglish
Article number130796
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Volume340
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2022

Keywords

  • Economic analysis
  • Life cycle assessment (LCA)
  • Recycling
  • Renewable energy
  • Silicon photovoltaic (PV)
  • Solar energy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering

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