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New process for solar silicon

This project will define, develop and test a new plasma and induction process for preparing solar-grade silicon from so far unused silicon streams.

Solar-grade silicon supply must respond to a steadily increasing demand (30% annual growth) yet is about to face a shortage. Today, supply is limited by: - The lack of a dedicated solar grade silicon source and consequently the dependence on electronic grade silicon sources. - The fluctuations in price and volume of the electronic grade silicon surplus. - The relative constant total capacity of the electronic grade silicon. - The high capital barriers to stepwise increase the capacity of pure silicon when the gaseous route is involved. Therefore, the solar industry might face increasing costs of raw material if it continues to rely on raw material surplus from the electronic industry. Such a dependence on the cyclic electronic industry is no longer possible for the fast developing solar cells industry. The only industrialised technology for electronic silicon production is based on an expensive multi-step process involving gaseous purification and an expensive energy consumption. The project proposes a cost-effective industrial solution to produce solar-grade silicon. This will offer the solar cells industry the opportunity of a cheaper and more reliable raw material source. This proposed new process will refine and upgrade various sources of silicon, which because of impurity or morphology are so far not used by the solar cells industry. Such sources may be very abundant and cheap (down to 1 euro/kg), but the material needed for undergoing a refining process to achieve the present quality of solar grade silicon is currently (2004) sold at 22 to 24 euro/kg. The new process will be based on the use of a plasma torch for impurities removal and a single turn induction for melting. Keywords: solar, silicon.
Acronym: 
NEPSOS
Project ID: 
3 314
Start date: 
01-06-2004
Project Duration: 
65months
Project costs: 
2 500 000.00€
Technological Area: 
Solar/Thermal energy
Market Area: 
Solar energy

Raising the productivity and competitiveness of European businesses through technology. Boosting national economies on the international market, and strengthening the basis for sustainable prosperity and employment.