Scientists discover new way to recycle solar cells: recovering 99.97% of materials

Credit: Unsplash+.

A groundbreaking study by the Helmholtz Institute Erlangen-Nuremberg, part of Forschungszentrum Jülich, has developed a new, efficient, and environmentally friendly method to recycle perovskite solar cells.

This method can recover up to 99.97% of the materials used in these solar cells, making it a major advancement in solar energy technology.

Published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science, the study details how this new recycling process works.

The team used a technique called layer-by-layer solvent extraction to separate and purify the individual components of the solar cells. These purified materials can then be used to produce new solar cells. This creates a closed recycling loop, which conserves resources and reduces waste.

Perovskite solar cells have a significant advantage over traditional silicon solar cells. Silicon photovoltaic modules are difficult to separate into their individual components because of their integrated structure, even though this structure gives them a long lifespan.

The new recycling method for perovskite solar cells is much simpler and more efficient.

Zhenni Wu, a researcher from the Helmholtz Institute Erlangen-Nuremberg, emphasized the importance of this study: “The most significant aspect of this paper is its comprehensive evaluation.

It goes beyond merely developing a recycling approach by thoroughly assessing its efficacy, economic viability, and environmental impact.”

Solar power is crucial for the energy transition, and the solar industry is expected to grow significantly in the coming decades. Although photovoltaic (PV) modules are designed to last as long as possible, they often end up in landfills at the end of their life, wasting valuable materials and potential savings.

The study’s technical and economic forecasts suggest that this new recycling process could lead to significant cost savings. In laboratory settings, recycling could reduce material costs by up to 64%, and in industrial production by up to 61%. This not only makes recycling more efficient but also more economically viable.

In simple terms, this new method of recycling perovskite solar cells can recover almost all the materials used, reducing waste and saving costs. It represents a major step forward in making solar energy more sustainable and cost-effective.