Scrap Computer Chips Reclaimed as Solar Cells

Posted on October 30, 2007  Comments (1)

IBM Pioneers Process to Turn Waste into Solar Energy

The new process uses a specialized pattern removal technique to repurpose scrap semiconductor wafers — thin discs of silicon material used to imprint patterns that make finished semiconductor chips for computers, mobile phones, video games, and other consumer electronics — to a form used to manufacture silicon-based solar panels. The new process was recently awarded the “2007 Most Valuable Pollution Prevention Award” from The National Pollution Prevention Roundtable (NPPR).

The new wafer reclamation process produces monitor wafers from scrap product wafers – generating an overall energy savings of up to 90% because repurposing scrap means that IBM no longer has to procure the usual volume of net new wafers to meet manufacturing needs. When monitors wafers reach end of life they are sold to the solar industry. Depending on how a specific solar cell manufacturer chooses to process a batch of reclaimed wafers – they could save between 30 – 90% of the energy that they would have needed if they’d used a new silicon material source.

One Response to “Scrap Computer Chips Reclaimed as Solar Cells”

  1. joel
    January 22nd, 2008 @ 4:52 pm

    Wow, 90% seems like a very impressive rate of return. I saw a similar press release on IBM’s website but don’t remember any actual numbers being quoted. Hopefully, this technology will be open (or cheaply licensed) to other chipmakers as it could prove to be a much needed stimulus to the solar panel market. With such massive savings on the key components in today solar panels hopefully the price will come drop to enough to make them a stronger contender in commercial markets.

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