Life cycle analysis of semiconductor recycling in thin film photovoltaic manufacturing methods

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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

Methods for how to conduct a LCA for semiconductor recycling during manufacturing will be laid out below.

Methods[edit | edit source]

LCA for a-Si[edit | edit source]

This project entails doing a LCA for recycling silane in the manufacturing process of a-Si:H-based photovoltaic modules to reduce waste and improve the ecological footprint of PV.

The methods for SimaPro shown below will be implored using the data from the stated sources. The following is a quick semi-related example done by myself using SimaPro.

SimaPro v.7.3 - Multi-user[edit | edit source]

Getting into SimaPro[edit | edit source]

This may be different for different versions/systems, so keep that in mind. After downloading/installing/setting up SimaPro, you should have an icon that looks something like this:


Double click on it to initialize the program. After which you will see the following screen or something similar:

SimaPro Step1 M.Kreiger.png

Hit OK.

The next screen that pops up will allow you to choose your server, location, & database. As shown below.

SimaPro Step2 M.Kreiger.png

The following steps are only valid for multi-user Sima-Pro versions, as far as I know. Select the appropriate server/location/database, click on the database & hit open.

The next window that appears is a "select user" window as shown below.

SimaPro Step3 M.Kreiger.png

Select your username & hit OK. It will ask you to input your password, do so & hit OK.

After all of these initial steps, you are ready to either create a new project or open an existing project. I will show the steps to creating a project. (Opening is straightforward, simply click on the project & hit OPEN)

SimaPro Step4 M.Kreiger.png

Hit NEW & the following dialog box will open.

Step5 M.Kreiger.png

Type in your project name & hit OK.

Setting up your project[edit | edit source]

Finally you are ready to begin! The window should look similar to what is shown below:

SimaPro Step6 M.Kreiger.png

To set up your new project, click "Product Stages" After which the following screen will show up.

SimaPro Step7 M.Kreiger.png Make sure you highlight "Others" under "Assembly" & hit "NEW"

  • Assembly is where you will put all of your manufacturing steps, individual components, etc
  • Life Cycle is where you will bring all of your "assemblies" and put in a waste scenario.

A "New Assembly" window will appear. In this window, title this either a manufacturing step or pre-established component, as shown below.

  • Make sure to include all energy/processing if not accounted for in the database entry.

SimaPro Step8 M.Kreiger.png

Then double click on "Insert line here" or an open row.

Your database screen will appear, pick the appropriate material/process & pay attention to details on whether this is a raw material, at plant, or other scenario. Also pay attention to the location and units. Make sure to pick from a quality database. Here you see I will pick the pre-established component "Laminate a-Si". Pick material & hit "SELECT"

SimaPro Step9 M.Kreiger.png

After putting in your first material, it should look something like the window below:

SimaPro Step10 M.Kreiger.png

Make sure to input the amount, what units, some comment to explain, & your functional unit in the top right. Close out this "Assembly" window & it will ask you if you want to save, click "SAVE".

Now your screen should look like this (you can create an additional assembly by going back to the original "Setting up your Assembly" step), as you can see I already created another assembly "Panel a-Si".

You can create "Life Cycle" as well if you have a complex end product, with multiple assemblies. For brevity, I will use the pre-determined values given by the EcoInvent database for these materials. If you choose to create a "Life Cycle" you will need to create a waste scenario as well. Which I will go through in future how-tos/updates.

SimaPro Step11 M.Kreiger.png

How to analyze/compare[edit | edit source]

Now you can either compare or analyze!

I will show you how to compare, as analyze is simple. (To analyze simply hit the red/blue bar graph above w/2 bars, then follow steps as defined below)

Highlight your assemblies (Either hold control & click or shift & click). Then hit "Compare", as shown.

SimaPro Step12 M.Kreiger.png

You will get a window that looks similar to the one below. Double click the method area. From this a window will pop up & you can choose what kind of analysis you want to do. Cumulative Energy Demand -compares energy use IPCC GWP..... - affect on climate change and there are several others to choose from. Choose whichever works best for what you want (look up online if you have questions about methods). Also make sure that you have equal (or unequal depending on situation) parts & hit "Calculate" As shown above.

Congratulations! You now have results!

SimaPro Step13 M.Kreiger.png

As you can see, since I did a cumulative energy demand comparison of a-Si Laminate vs a-Si Panel. There is a dramatic difference in energy use in MJ between the two. As expected, the panel is much higher due to it incorporating laminate as an input.

Now you can look at the different options for your results, when just doing analysis you get some fun flow charts. Explore these options, then print, print screen or something similar. Now that you've set this up it will be easy to go back & reanalyze the data to get the same results.

Then after you're all finish, close Simapro by going "File->Close".