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EGEB: A great breakthrough for solar panel recycling

  • Researchers discover an eco-friendly way to recycle silicon — used in solar panels — into nanoparticles.
  • South Korea will increase the number of EVs from the current 110,000 to 1.13 million by 2025.
  • A Scottish distillery has designed a “climate-positive” vodka made of peas.
  • Arcadia Power is committed to making clean energy work for the planet and your bank account — all without changing your utility company. Sign up to receive your $20 Amazon Gift Card.

Solar silicon — recycled

The majority of solar panels that are produced in ever-increasing quantities use silicon. Solar panels that usually have a service life of 25 to 30 years tend to degrade and produce less electricity over time, making silicon waste recycling a hot-button issue. 

Scientists at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology in Moscow have figured out how to convert silicon into silicon oxide nanoparticles, which can then be recycled. This method can be used to avoid a huge amount of waste by 2050. Their findings were published in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering.

Lead researcher Stanislav Evlashin explains:

The used panels are converted into nanoparticles using hydrothermal synthesis in an aqueous environment. The good thing about this process is that nanoparticle sizes can be controlled within a range of 8 to 50 nm without using a lot of equipment.

And Julia Bondareva, a Skoltech PhD student, continues:

The vast majority of methods used to synthesize silicon oxide nanoparticles are based on the bottom-up approach and, therefore, use alkoxides as a precursor. By contrast, ours is a top-down method that uses bulk silicon as a source, which creates a wealth of advantages, such as simplicity, scalability, and controllable particle size distribution. Temperature and hydrolysis time are the key parameters of the synthesis that influence the particle size distribution. We noticed that an increase in pH has a strong effect on the particle formation rate. This is why we used ammonia, which made the reaction in an aqueous medium much faster.

Alongside pure silicon, the scientists used industrial solar panels based on the Si-ITO heterostructure that behaved in the same way as silicon panels and were successfully converted into nanoparticles. This research marks a major milestone toward environmentally safe recycling of silicon waste and creating new sources of silicon oxide nanoparticles.

South Korea’s coal shutdown

South Korean President Moon Jae-in announced virtually, at the first International Day for Clean Air for Blue Skies, that in a $17 billion investment, the country will boost the number of electric cars from the current 110,000 to 1.13 million by 2025, and increase the number of hydrogen vehicles from 8,000 to 200,000. Seoul’s environment ministry said it will do this with government subsidies. The country also intends to add 45,000 charging stations by the same date. Moon’s administration says this will create 151,000 jobs and invest $17 billion.

And in more good news, South Korea will more than triple the number of solar and wind power facilities by 2025 compared with last year. It will also close 10 existing coal power plants by the end of 2022 and another 20 by 2034.

Moon’s Green New Deal initiative intends to create 660,000 jobs. The initiative will cost $61.43 billion (73 trillion won) through 2025. By the end of this 2020, Korea will present a net zero road map by 2050 and will set new emissions reduction goals for 2030.

Eco-friendly pea vodka

Scotland’s Arbikie Distillery in Arbroath has designed a pea-based “climate-positive” vodka that it claims creates a carbon saving of 1.53kg CO2e per 700ml bottle, reports Business Green. Arbikie claims a reduction in emissions that offsets the CO2 created by its manufaturing process.

So how do they do this? Peas. Business Green explains:

Firstly, peas — like other legumes — produce much of their own nitrogen thanks to a symbiotic relationship with bacteria that fix nitrogen from the air for the plant. As a result, they do not need the synthetic fertilizer typically used to grow cereal crops such as corn, wheat, or rye.

Secondly, peas contain significantly more protein than cereal crops, which leads to the creation of by-products, known as pot ale, that can be reused leading to further emissions reductions.

Arbikie also distills a climate-positive gin, and both spirits are branded “Nàdar.” Iain Stirling, distillery director at Arbikie, said:

Sustainable products, particularly in the area of food and drink, are undoubtedly the future, and they will be the major economic driving force in the years to come, not just in Scotland, but across the world.

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.