Physicochemical characterisation, kinetic investigation and process modelling of the thermal decomposition of polymers found in end of life first-generation PV modules

  • Charlie Farrell

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis considers end-of-life first generation PV modules and their material constituents such as the encapsulant and backsheet polymers. These modules are bound in a tight laminate structure. Due to the nature of the adhesion, the layers need to be separated in order the to access the individual materials in order to recycle. Due to legislative drivers such as the WEEE directive and an exponential growth in PV waste each year (estimated to be 60-78 million tonnes by 2050), there is a growing concern on how to recycle these modules, whilst considering important elements such as the waste management hierarchy, the rare and precious metals these modules contain and the circular economy for these modules. The thesis is structured into three discrete work packages outlining a physicochemical characterisation study of the encapsulant and backsheet polymers, a kinetic investigation of both polymers, and a process modelling study indicative of the delamination of end-of-life PV modules.

Thesis is embargoed until 31st July 2025
Date of AwardJul 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsEuropean Union’s INTERREG VA Programme
SupervisorAdrian Murphy (Supervisor) & Rory Doherty (Supervisor)


  • PV module recycling
  • WEEE
  • end-of-life management
  • circular economy
  • sustainable development
  • pyrolysis
  • kinetic Modelling
  • isoconversional methods
  • Friedman method
  • process modelling
  • aspen plus
  • PV module
  • photovoltaics
  • recycling
  • plastic pyrolysis

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