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Recycling paths for thin-film chalcogenide photovoltaic waste - current feasible processes

: Marwede, Max; Berger, Wolfgang; Schlummer, Martin; Mäurer, Andreas; Reller, Armin


Renewable energy 55 (2013), pp.220-229
ISSN: 0960-1481
Journal Article
Fraunhofer IVV ()

Thin film chalcogenide photovoltaic technologies (CIGS, CdTe) make use of critical and toxic materials. Therefore a sound recycling of production waste and of end-of-life PV modules is essential to increase the availability of critical materials and to decrease the environmental impact of the products. Several processes to recover metals and semiconductors from thin-film PV modules have been developed, with some being operated at pilot scale. This paper presents an overview of proven recycling concepts. The approaches were divided into three steps: "delamination of the modules", "decoating of the substrate" and "extraction and refining of the metals and semiconductors" to illustrate possible recycling paths. For each step feasible mechanical or chemical processes are presented and their advantages and drawbacks are described. The results show that recycling technologies for chalcogenide photovoltaic modules are sufficiently explored and commercially available. However, the responsibility to set up efficient collection and recycling systems is in the hands of the PV producers and must be supported by appropriate policies.