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Page addresses the silicon shortage for solar photovoltaics, and solutions, including more efficient use of silicon, alternate silicon manufacturing methods, and alternatives to silicon.


Silicon Shortage

On Jun 14, 2008, New Energy Congress member, Jim Dunn wrote:

"New supplies rapidly coming on line – Should be a glut of Si by 2012."

  • A Price Drop for Solar Panels - Solar electricity is about to get much cheaper, industry analysts predict, because a shortage of the silicon used in solar panels is almost over. Prices for solar panels could drop by as much as 50 percent from 2006 to 2010. (MIT Technology Review; May 1, 2008)

Silicon Breeder

  • Photovoltaic Breeder and Hydrogen Production Proposal - Company uses the electricity from PV panels to electrolyse and then crystalize more silicon to make more PV panels. An acre of PV can produce 10.5 acres of new PV per year, about one new acre increase every 35 days.

Black Silicon

  • Directory:Black_Silicon - Silicon surfaces rendered black by pits and bumps only nanometers large could in the future help make solar power cells more efficient, enabling a more complete absorption of the sun's rays.

Alternative Silicon Methods

  • 1366 Technologies: More-Powerful Solar Cells - An MIT researcher has found a way efficiently of an important type of silicon solar cells by 27% while keeping costs about the same. The technology has received its first round of funding at $12.4 million dollars. (PESWiki; Mar. 27, 2008)
  • Expandable Silicon - A new design for silicon-based chips makes it possible to mechanically stretch them out to cover large areas. These expanded chips, which could be thousands of times the size of the original, could be used to make cheaper solar panels, sensor networks, and flat-screen TVs. (MIT Technology Review; Dec. 14, 2007)
  • Innovalight - Innovalight is harnessing a proprietary silicon-ink process to print thin-film solar power modules. Leveraging the advantages of solvent-based processing, Innovalight will help accelerate the promise of more affordable solar power solutions for residential and commercial applications.
  • IBM Pioneers Process to Turn Waste into Solar Energy - IBM has developed a new semiconductor wafer reclamation process that uses a specialized pattern removal technique to repurpose scrap semiconductor wafers to a form used to manufacture silicon-based solar panels. (PhysOrg; Oct. 30, 2007)
  • Solaicx - Has a silicon wafer production system specifically for the photovoltaic industry, which is 5 times more productive than those designed to service the semiconductor industry. Silicon utilization - one of the most significant cost factors - will be greatly improved through Solaicx's manufacturing process, able to slice thinner wafers while reducing nearly all excess waste.
  • Solar panels from dirty silicon - CaliSolar has come up with a way to make solar cells out of upgraded metallurgical silicon, which is less pure and less costly than the industry standard electrical grade silicon. Their 14% efficient solar cells will cost far less than the 16% efficient cells that are common today. A prototype plant is planned to be built in the first quarter of 2008. (CNET News; Oct. 23, 2007)
  • Solar cells go thin and flimsy - The next generation of solar cells made out of plastics and microscopic crystals instead of silicon are taking shape at the University of Queensland. The new methods would produce cells with efficiencies comparable to silicon, but which are cheaper and more flexible. (PhysOrg; Sept. 4, 2006)
  • PV Solar Grade Silicon - 6N Silicon will develop and commercialize a process for purifying inexpensive, readily available metallurgical grade silicon into solar grade silicon for the photovoltaic (PV) industry. This process has the potential to clear the bottleneck for photovoltaic manufacturers. (Renewable Energy Access; Jul. 11, 2007)
  • New Silicon Feedstock - Dow Corning Corp. has announced that it has achieved a milestone in solar energy technology: a commercially available, large-scale manufacturable solar-grade (SoG) silicon derived from metallurgical silicon that exhibits good solar cell performance characteristics when blended with traditional polysilicon feedstock. (Renewable Energy Access; Sept. 5, 2006)
  • Molecular Stand-in for Solar's Polymer Wires - Scientists from U.S. DOE and the University of Florida are working on a process that uses polymer molecule chains (molecular wires) to replace the silicon conventionally used in components of solar photovoltaic cells. (SolarAccess; Aug. 24, 2004)

Conservation of Silicon

See also Directory:Concentrated Solar Power - enables diminished requirement for silicon.

  • Sliver Solar Cells - New manufacturing process developed at the Australian National University uses as little as one tenth the amount of hyper-pure silicon as in square solar PV technology. Manufacturing plant is complete, and process testing is underway. Commercial modules projected to be available by mid 2007.
  • Researchers Developing More Powerful Solar Cells - Iowa State researchers have made discoveries in materials science and plasma chemistry that they hope will boost the performance of thin, flexible solar cells manufactured by PowerFilm, an Iowa company, using non-crystalline silicon wafers. (NewsWise; Sept. 18, 2006)
  • Scientists Announce Breakthrough in Silicon Photonics Devices - Building on a series of recent breakthroughs in silicon photonics, researchers at UCLA have developed a novel approach to silicon devices that combines light amplification with a photovoltaic – or solar panel – effect. (PhysOrg; June 28, 2006)
  • Increasing Solar Efficiency - British researchers receive $8 million grant to develop new manufacturing technique for photovoltaics that will cut cost by as much as half. Changes include thinner silicon coating and reducing number of semiconductors. (PhysOrg; Nov. 22, 2004)

Stretchable Silicon

  • Stretchable Silicon May Inspire a New Wave of Electronics - Scientists have created a form of nanoscale silicon that is stretchable. The new material may help pave the way for a class of stretchable electronic devices, such as “smart? surgical gloves and personal health monitors, that are not possible to create using current technology and materials. (PhysOrg; June 14, 2007)

Alternatives to Silicon

  • Advanced Diamond Solutions amorphous nanostructures - Semiconductor industry company serendipitously developed thermionic solar cells using amorphous diamond nanostructures that offer potential efficiencies of 50% at half the cost of silicon solar cells. Also has good promise as a thermal electric generator.
  • Nano Flakes promise greater solar energy efficiency - SunFlake has discovered a new material known as nano flakes for "future solar cells" that have the potential to convert up to 30% of the solar energy into electricity, twice the current average. The technology has the potential to reduce solar cell production costs which rely on expensive semiconducting silicium. (GizMag; Dec. 20, 2007)
  • Organic Solar Cell Boost - New materials being developed by Global Photonics have been integrated into an organic solar cell that double its open-circuit voltage and demonstrate the potential to make highly efficient photovoltaic cells much less expensively than with silicon. (Photonics; July 27, 2006)
  • DayStar Technologies' Silicon-Free Solar Cells - Daystar's unique metal foil design is not vulnerable to silicon shortages. Striving to "make free energy affordable", production of this thin film design is being ramped up to 20 MW per year.
  • Ultra Cheap Solar Development by STMicroelectronics - European chip maker is working on solar cell process that uses plastic substrate instead of silicon. "Over a typical 20-year life span of a solar cell, a single produced watt should cost as little as $0.20, compared with the current $4, competing even with fossil fuel cost of $0.40.
  • Sea Sponge Technology for Silicon - In his lab facing the Pacific Ocean, Daniel Morse is learning new ways to build complex semiconductor devices for cheaper, more efficient solar cells. He has an unlikely teacher: sea sponges. (MIT Technology Review; Nov. 7, 2006)
  • Molecular Stand-in for Solar's Polymer Wires - Scientists from U.S. DOE and the University of Florida are working on a process that uses polymer molecule chains (molecular wires) to replace the silicon conventionally used in components of solar photovoltaic cells. (SolarAccess; Aug. 24, 2004)

See also





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