Assessment of the energy recovery potential of waste Photovoltaic (PV) modules

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    Global exponential increase in levels of Photovoltaic (PV) module waste is an increasing concern. The purpose of this study is to investigate if there is energy value in the polymers contained within first-generation crystalline silicon (c-Si) PV modules to help contribute positively to recycling rates and the circular economy. One such thermochemical conversion method that appeals to this application is pyrolysis. As c-Si PV modules are made up of glass, metal, semiconductor and polymer layers; pyrolysis has potential not to promote chemical oxidation of any of these layers to help aid delamination and subsequently, recovery. Herein, we analysed both used polymers taken from a deconstructed used PV module and virgin-grade polymers prior to manufacture to determine if any properties or thermal behaviours had changed. The calorific values of the used and virgin-grade Ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) encapsulant were found to be high, unchanged and comparable to that of biodiesel at 39.51 and 39.87 MJ.Kg^−1, respectively. This result signifies that there is energy value within used modules. As such, this study has assessed the pyrolysis behaviour of PV cells and has indicated the energy recovery potential within the used polymers found in c-Si PV modules.


    • Assessment of the energy recovery potential of waste Photovoltaic (PV) modules

      Rights statement: Copyright 2019 the authors. This is an open access article published under a Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the author and source are cited.

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    Original languageEnglish
    Article number5267
    Number of pages13
    JournalScientific Reports
    Journal publication date01 Dec 2019
    Early online date27 Mar 2019
    Publication statusEarly online date - 27 Mar 2019

    ID: 166814370