Life cycle analysis of semiconductor recycling in thin film photovoltaic manufacturing literature review

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This page is part of a Michigan Tech's Open Sustainability Technology Research Group project exploring industrial symbiosis of large-scale solar photovoltaic manufacturing plants. By coupling traditionally separate industries in the physical exchange of materials, energy, water, and by-products we can reduce environmental impact while providing companies with an economic competitive advantage. Learn more.

Industrial symbiosis in photovoltaic manufacturing- the Big Picture | Glass+PV plant | Silane recycling | Glass+Greenhouse

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Searches[edit | edit source]

Google Scholar: waste from a-Si manufacturing

Google Scholar: waste a-Si manufacturing

Google Scholar: life cycle analysis a-Si recycling

Google Scholar: recycling a-Si

Google Scholar: recycling amorphous silicon

Google Scholar: life cycle analysis a-Si

Google Scholar: recycle a-Si manufacturing

MTU Library: a-Si

MTU Library: amorphous silicon


Good References[edit | edit source]


~1000nm thickness

~11.7% efficiency

Life Cycle Analysis of Silane Recycling in Amorphous Silicon-Based Solar Photovoltaic Manufacturing[edit | edit source]

Source: M.A. Kreiger, D.R. Shonnard, J.M. Pearce, "Life Cycle Analysis of Silane Recycling in Amorphous Silicon-Based Solar Photovoltaic Manufacturing"Resources, Conservation & Recycling, (in press). DOI Open access coming soon.



Amorphous silicon (a-Si:H)-based solar cells have the lowest ecological impact of photovoltaic (PV) materials. In order to continue to improve the environmental performance of PV manufacturing using proposed industrial symbiosis techniques, this paper performs a life cycle analysis (LCA) on both conventional 1-GW scaled a-Si:H-based single junction and a-Si:H/microcrystalline-Si:H tandem cell solar PV manufacturing plants and such plants coupled to silane recycling plants. Both the energy consumed and greenhouse gas emissions are tracked in the LCA, then silane gas is reused in the manufacturing process rather than standard waste combustion. Using a recycling process that results in a silane loss of only 17% instead of conventional processing that loses 85% silane, results in an energy savings of 81,700 GJ and prevents 4400 tons of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere per year for the single junction plant. Due to the increased use of silane for the relatively thick microcrystalline-Si:H layers in the tandem junction plants, the savings are even more substantial – 290,000 GJ of energy savings and 15.6 million kg of CO2 eq. emission reductions per year. This recycling process reduces the cost of raw silane by 68%, or approximately $22.6 million per year for a 1-GW a-Si:H-based PV production facility and over $79 million per year for tandem manufacturing. The results are discussed and conclusions are drawn about the technical feasibility and environmental benefits of silane recycling in an eco-industrial park centered around a-Si:H-based PV manufacturing plants.

a-Si[edit | edit source]

Alsema 2000(need to format);2-C/pdf

 -Waste of Silane maximum of 85%, contradicts 2010 patent of 90-95% waste
 -Much better plan than 2010 patent
 -Hydrogen recycled as well (50-85%)
 -Silane recycled (50-80%)
 -Concerns for a-Si & other materials
 -Lots of references for PV materials
 -Discusses policy of end-of-life recycling (CIGS, CdTe, a-Si, p-Si, & c-Si)    
 -Considers environmental effects of hazardous materials in solar cells
 -Pyrolysis to remove Silicon from cells
 -CIGS acid bath/thermal processing
 -CdTe electrodeposition/precip/evap
 -a-Si unknown possibly done with the same method as other cells, profit most likely negative
 -equations: Profit, Mass recovered, Mass waste, Disposal cost, Total profit form recycling 
 -1.165g a-Si per/m^2
 -CdTe not profitable for recycling, but good for enviro, First Solar company: takes back for recycling
 -SolarWorld/SolarMaterial recycling damaged modules
 -CIGS probably recycled for $
 -Government incentives needed
-"From an environmental point of view, as it emerges from all LCA assessments of electricity production from different energy systems, photovoltaic technologies, with a range of 21–37 g of CO2 eq. emissions per kWh of produced energy for an average southern European isolation have a clear advantage over coal (900), gas combined cycle (439) and even nuclear (40) (see e.g. References 8, 9)."
- Discusses avoided emissions with a-Si and other advantages
-Lifecycle assessment of various silicon cells
-Claims mc-Si is best for Mobi desert
-a-Si, monocrystalline, and multi-crystalline cells
-Life cycle analysis from extraction to panel assembly
 -In depth description of system to recycle Silane & Hydrogen (Is it possible to view figures?)
 -Approximately 5-10% of Silane(SiH4) is used while the remaining 90-95% is burned or disposed of
 -Need to reduce waste
 -Silane used to grow semicond layers of Silicon (doped/intrinsic)
 -Previous LCA of various PV systems
 -I confirmed numbers using Simapro for panel energy consumption
 -# # # #'s!
 -Simapro/Ecoinvent has inputs for a-Si panels & laminant
-Life cycle analysis
-Thin film advantages
-Recent cost reductions $1/Watt 2008
-Deposition & thickness
-Process control
-Silane mixture
-Conditions for silane
-Fabrication, see if Dr. Pearce's library has this book
-Thin film c-Si, a-Si
-Commercial design & operation
-LCA for pretty much every thin film PV
-Full process chain - production to dismantling
-Info from 2005


-LCA for photovoltaics (12 companies)
-Emissions over LC comparable to Nuclear power
-Deposition rate effect
-Structure of cells
-LCA of mc-Si & a-Si
-Heat & electricity
-LCA using Simapro
-LCA response to publications stating that PV has higher impact on planet
-Need for updated data
-EcoInvent database update
-LCA suggestions
-LCA comparing various power systems, PV, wind, coal, etc
-lots of detail on the properties of a-Si
-growth & growth mechanisms
-check Dr. Pearce's library
-Manufacturing issues with a-Si deposition
 -Chemistry & mathematical equations of deposition
-a-Si deposition quality
-quality due to hydrogen content ect
-a-Si payback time approx 1 year
-max 31 times original energy use in 30 years
-"The US Department of Energy cost goal for thin films is about $0.33/Wp, which corresponds to module efficiencies of about 15% and module manufacturing costs of about $50/m2. "
-Materials costs - includes a-Si
-Very similar to previous paper, even having identical sentences.
-a-Si cell structure
-thin a-Si on stainless steel = amorphous substrate

-Material & energy flows for various silicon cells
 -United Solar collaboration
 -Layers: Tefzel, EVA, substrate, EVA composite, steel
 -Module production: Steel, washed, refl. deposited, a-Si deposited, TCO deposit/scribe, pass, print, cut
-LCA of PV
-Aluminum frame significant portion of energy use
-LCA of PV for various locations
-Based on material production, manufacturing, transportation
-Energy payback time
-United Solar
  • Guha, S., X. Xu, J. Yang, and A. Banerjee. “High Deposition Rate Amorphous Silicon‐based Multijunction Solar Cell.” Applied Physics Letters 66, no. 5 (January 30, 1995): 595-597.[33]*
  • Johansson, Thomas B, Henry Kelly, Amulya K. N. Reddy, and Williams, Robert H. “Renewable Fuels and Electricity for a Growing World Economy: Defining and Achieving the Potential.” In Energy Studies Review. Vol. 4, n.d. [2][34]*
  • Renewable Energy: Sources for Fuels and Electricity. Washington, D.C: Island Press, 1993. [3][35]
-fabrication methods for a-Si cells 
-See if book is in Dr. Pearce's library
-techniques for a-Si deposition
- Methods for separating various gases/pollutants from waste gas.

a-Si Useful Info[edit | edit source]
 -Useful list of resources
 -Useful diagrams
 -Vacuum pump for solar cell manufacturing
 -pumping speed 1800 m3h-1 uses 7kW of power
 -Health issues associated with various PV
 -Discusses LCA issues

(Unsure of proper citation for MSDS)

  • MSDS - Silane, BOC Gases (1996)[4] [42]
 -Irritating, highly flammable, spontaneous combustion
  • MSDS B2H6 - Praxair: Diborane [5][43]
  • MSDS PH3 - Praxair: Ion Implantation Mixture [6][44]
  • MSDS TMB Substrate Solution - Cell Signaling Technology [7][45]
  • ThinSilicon - Patent Applications [8]
 -Contains various manufacturing methods for PV

  • Uni-Solar website [9]
  • Previous Course's Work : “Category:MY3701 - Appropedia: The Sustainability Wiki” [10]
  • Previous Course's Work : “Semiconductor Recycling Plant Case Study of a-Si:H Photovoltaic Manufacturing - Appropedia: The Sustainability Wiki” [11]
  • Silane Supplier MI: [12]
Thomas Township, MI


Not Particularly Useful References (at this time)[edit | edit source]

Uni-Solar - Array Specifications (Power Tilt): [13]

Tester, J.W., E.M. Drake, M.W. Golay, M.J. Driscoll, and W.A. Peters. Sustainable Energy: Choosing Among Options., MIT Press, 2005. Book [14] Poster [15] "Human survival depends on a continuing energy supply, but the need for ever-increasing amounts of energy poses a dilemma: How can we provide the benefits of energy to the population of the globe without damaging the environment, negatively affecting social stability, or threatening the well-being of future generations? The solution will lie in finding sustainable energy sources and more efficient means of converting and utilizing energy. This textbook is designed for advanced undergraduate and graduate students as well as others who have an interest in exploring energy resource options and technologies with a view toward achieving sustainability. It clearly presents the trade-offs and uncertainties inherent in evaluating and choosing different energy options and provides a framework for assessing policy solutions."


  1. Briend, Pierre, Bruno Alban, Henri Chevrel, and Denis Jahan. “Method for Recycling Silane (SiH4)”, January 20, 2011.
  2. Fthenakis, V.M., Kim, H.C. “Photovoltaics: Life-cycle Analyses.” Solar Energy 85, no. 8 (2011): 1609-1628.
  3. McDonald, N.C., and J.M. Pearce. “Producer Responsibility and Recycling Solar Photovoltaic Modules.” Energy Policy 38, no. 11 (November 2010): 7041-7047.
  4. García‐Valverde, Rafael, Judith A Cherni, and Antonio Urbina. “Life Cycle Analysis of Organic Photovoltaic Technologies.” Progress in Photovoltaics: Research and Applications 18, no. 7 (November 1, 2010): 535-558.
  5. Nishimura, A., Y. Hayashi, K. Tanaka, M. Hirota, S. Kato, M. Ito, K. Araki, and E.J. Hu. “Life Cycle Assessment and Evaluation of Energy Payback Time on High-concentration Photovoltaic Power Generation System.” Applied Energy 87, no. 9 (September 2010): 2797-2807.
  6. Sherwani, A.F., J.A. Usmani, and Varun. “Life Cycle Assessment of Solar PV Based Electricity Generation Systems: A Review.” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 14, no. 1 (January 2010): 540-544.
  7. Jason Michael Stephens, Bradley Own Stimson, Guleid Nur Abdi Hussen. 2010. System and method for recycling a gas used to deposit a semiconductor layer. U.S. Patent 2010/0144066 A1, filed December 10, 2009, and issued June 10, 2010.
  8. Jungbluth N., Stucki M., Frischknecht R. "Part XII Photovoltaics." Swiss Centre for Life Cycle Inventories. 2009.
  9. Vasilis, Fthenakis. “Sustainability of Photovoltaics: The Case for Thin-film Solar Cells.” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 13, no. 9 (December 2009): 2746-2750.
  10. Ellison, T., and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (U.S.). Implementation of a Comprehensive on-Line Closed-Loop Diagnostic System for Roll-to-Roll Amorphous Silicon Solar Cell Production Final Subcontract Report, September 2006. Nrel/sr 520-41560. Golden, Colo: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 2007.
  11. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (U.S.). Measurement of Depositing and Bombarding Species Involved in the Plasma Production of Amorphous Silicon and Silicon/Germanium Solar Cells Annual Technical Report, 1 June 2002 - 31 May 2005. Nrel/sr 520-40056. Golden, Colo: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 2006.
  12. Poortmans, Jef, and Vladimir Arkhipov. Thin Film Solar Cells: Fabrication, Characterization and Applications. John Wiley and Sons, 2006.
  13. Birkmire, Robert, and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (U.S.). “Processing Materials Devices and Diagnostics for Thin Film Photovoltaics Fundamental and Manufacturability Issues : Final Report, 1 March 2005 - 30 November 2008”, 2009.
  14. Jungbluth, N., M. Tuchschmid, and M. de Wild-Scholten. “Life Cycle Assessment of Photovoltaics: Update of Ecoinvent Data V2. 0.” ESU-services Ltd (2008).
  15. Fthenakis, Vasilis M., and Hyung Chul Kim. “Greenhouse-gas Emissions from Solar Electric- and Nuclear Power: A Life-cycle Study.” Energy Policy 35, no. 4 (April 2007): 2549-2557.
  16. Wronski, C.R., R.W. Collins, V. Vlahos, JM Pearce, J. Deng, M. Albert, GM Ferreira, and C. Chen. “Optimization of Phase-Engineered a-Si: H-Based Multijunction Solar Cells.” National Renewable Energy Laboratory Annual Report (2006).
  17. Pacca, Sergio, Deepak Sivaraman, and Gregory Keoleian. “Life Cycle Assessment of the 33kW Photovoltaic System on the Dana Building at the University of Michigan: Thin Film Laminates, Multi-crystalline Modules and Balance of System Components, Center for Sustainable Systems” 2006.
  18. Tripanagnostopoulos, Y., M. Souliotis, R. Battisti, and A. Corrado. “Energy, Cost and LCA Results of PV and Hybrid PV/T Solar Systems.” Progress in Photovoltaics: Research and Applications 13, no. 3 (May 1, 2005): 235-250.
  19. Fthenakis, V. M, E. A Alsema, and M. J de Wild-Scholten. “Life Cycle Assessment of Photovoltaics: Perceptions, Needs, and Challenges.” In Conference Record of the Thirty-first IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference, 2005, 1655- 1658. IEEE, 2005.
  20. Hiroki, Hondo. “Life Cycle GHG Emission Analysis of Power Generation Systems: Japanese Case.” Energy 30, no. 11–12 (September 2005): 2042-2056.
  21. Street, R. A. Hydrogenated Amorphous Silicon. Cambridge Solid State Science Series. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
  22. Volltrauer, H., and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (U.S.). Productivity Enhancement for Manufacturing of Amorphous Silicon PV Modules Final Technical Report, 1 July 2002-30 June 2003. Nrel/sr 520-35147. Golden, Colo: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 2003.
  23. van Sark, Wilfried G.J.H.M. “Methods of Deposition of Hydrogenated Amorphous Silicon for Device Applications”. Debye Institute, Utrecht University, 2002.
  24. Wronski, CR, JM Pearce, RJ Koval, AS Ferlauto, and RW Collins. “Progress in Amorphous Silicon Based Solar Cell Technology.” RIO 02-World Climate & Energy Event (2002).
  25. J. Pearce and A. Lau, "Net Energy Analysis For Sustainable Energy Production From Silicon Based Solar Cells", Proceedings of American Society of Mechanical Engineers Solar 2002: Sunrise on the Reliable Energy Economy, editor R. Cambell-Howe, 2002.
  26. Ken, Zweibel. “Thin Film PV Manufacturing: Materials Costs and Their Optimization.” Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells 63, no. 4 (August 31, 2000): 375-386.
  27. Ken, Zweibel. “Issues in Thin Film PV Manufacturing Cost Reduction.” Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells 59, no. 1–2 (September 1999): 1-18.
  28. Guha, S., J. Yang, D. L. Williamson, Y. Lubianiker, J. D. Cohen, and A. H. Mahan. “Structural, Defect, and Device Behavior of Hydrogenated Amorphous Si Near and Above the Onset of Microcrystallinity.” Applied Physics Letters 74, no. 13 (1999): 1860.
  29. Andersson, B.A, C Azar, J Holmberg, and S Karlsson. “Material Constraints for Thin-film Solar Cells.” Energy 23, no. 5 (May 1998): 407-411.
  30. Lewis, Geoffrey. and Gregory A. Keoleian. 1997. Life Cycle Design of Amorphous Silicon Photovoltaic Modules. National Risk Management Research Laboratory, US Environmental Protection Agency. EPA/600/R-97/081.
  31. Keoleian, Gregory A., and Geoffrey McD. Lewis. “Application of Life-cycle Energy Analysis to Photovoltaic Module Design.” Progress in Photovoltaics: Research and Applications 5, no. 4 (July 1997): 287-300.
  32. Lewis, Geoff, and Gregory Keoleian. “Amorphous Silicon Photovoltaic Modules: A Life Cycle Design Case Study. EPA. 1997.
  33. Guha, S., X. Xu, J. Yang, and A. Banerjee. “High Deposition Rate Amorphous Silicon‐based Multijunction Solar Cell.” Applied Physics Letters 66, no. 5 (January 30, 1995): 595-597.
  34. Johansson, Thomas B, Henry Kelly, Amulya K. N. Reddy, and Williams, Robert H. “Renewable Fuels and Electricity for a Growing World Economy: Defining and Achieving the Potential.” In Energy Studies Review. Vol. 4, n.d.
  35. Renewable Energy: Sources for Fuels and Electricity. Washington, D.C: Island Press, 1993.
  36. Takahashi, K., and M. Konagai. Amorphous Silicon Solar Cells, 1986.
  37. Materials Issues in Applications of Amorphous Silicon Technology: Symposium Held April 15-17, 1985, San Francisco, California, U.S.A. Materials Research Society Symposia Proceedings v. 49. Pittsburgh, Pa: Materials Research Society, 1985.
  38. Amorphous Silicon Solar Cells by Hydrogen Implantation. [Washington] : Springfield, Va: Dept. of Energy ; National Technical Information Service, 1979.
  39. Center for Sustainable Systems, University of Michigan. 2011. "Photovoltaic Energy Factsheet", Pub. No. CSS07-08.
  40. Dry Vacuum Pump Is Compact, Efficient.” R&D, 2009.
  41. Alsema, E. A, A.E. Baumann, R. Hill, and M.H. Patterson. Health, Safety, and Environmental Issues in Thin Film Manufacturing. The Netherlands: Utrecht University, 2006.
  42. MSDS - Silane, BOC Gases (1996)
  43. MSDS B2H6 - Praxair: Diborane
  44. MSDS PH3 - Praxair: Ion Implantation Mixture
  45. MSDS TMB Substrate Solution - Cell Signaling Technology

References to sort through[edit | edit source]

a-Si[edit | edit source]

CdS/CdTe[edit | edit source]

Kato, Kazuhiko, Takeshi Hibino, Keiichi Komoto, Seijiro Ihara, Shuji Yamamoto, and Hideaki Fujihara. “A Life-cycle Analysis on Thin-film CdS/CdTe PV Modules.” Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells 67, no. 1–4 (March 2001): 279-287.