Recycling WEEE: extraction and concentration of silver from waste crystalline silicon photovoltaic modules

Pablo Dias, Selene Javimczik, Mariana Benevit, Hugo Veit, Andréa Moura Bernardes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Photovoltaic modules (or panels) are important power generators with limited lifespans. The modules contain known pollutants and valuable materials such as silicon, silver, copper, aluminum and glass. Thus, recycling such waste is of great importance. To date, there have been few published studies on recycling silver from silicon photovoltaic panels, even though silicon technology represents the majority of the photovoltaic market. In this study, the extraction of silver from waste modules is justified and evaluated. It is shown that the silver content in crystalline silicon photovoltaic modules reaches 600 g/t. Moreover, two methods to concentrate silver from waste modules were studied, and the use of pyrolysis was evaluated. In the first method, the modules were milled, sieved and leached in 64% nitric acid solution with 99% sodium chloride; the silver concentration yield was 94%. In the second method, photovoltaic modules were milled, sieved, subjected to pyrolysis at 500 °C and leached in 64% nitric acid solution with 99% sodium chloride; the silver concentration yield was 92%. The first method is preferred as it consumes less energy and presents a higher yield of silver. This study shows that the use of pyrolysis does not assist in the extraction of silver, as the yield was similar for both methods with and without pyrolysis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)220-225
Number of pages6
JournalWaste Management
Volume57
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • crystalline silicon
  • e-waste
  • recycling
  • silver recovery
  • solar panel

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