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Silicon helps make solar photovoltaic panels

Induction heating is being applied to silicon to help solve one of humanity’s biggest challenges: the production of clean, affordable and abundant electricity.

Silicon helps make solar photovoltaic panels

 


Silicon. It’s the earth’s second-most abundant element. And products containing silicon are widespread, the most common being semiconductors. But now induction heating is being applied to silicon to help solve one of humanity’s biggest challenges: the production of clean, affordable and abundant electricity.


Silicon helps make solar photovoltaic panels (SPVs) that harness solar power, an energy source that’s appealing for several reasons. First, abundant amounts of solar energy reach earth, and that energy is basically untapped. And of course, silicon reserves are pretty much endless.


Second, operating costs are extremely low compared to existing power technologies. Third, it’s efficient (six times more than wind power). Fourth, it has great potential. France for example has a total yearly consumption of 350 TWh. If the country covered one-third of its roofs with solar panels, its energy needs would be satisfied. Finally, it’s especially attractive to developing countries. They can quickly adopt SPV technology, skipping over the costly development of large-scale energy networks.


The future’s bright
Of course, SPV technology alone will not meet all our energy needs. However, SPV technology is a giant step forward. But what role does EFD Induction play in all this?


Put simply, EFD Induction supplies the necessary equipment for the Photosil project, a revolutionary plan that uses a new process to manufacture SPVs at attractive prices. The three-year old project is owned by an international consortium that includes Apollon Solar, Ferro Atlantica, CEA (The French Nuclear Research Center), CNRS (The French National Research Center) and Cyberstar, a leading supplier of innovative crystallization furnaces.


The complex system built by EFD Induction for Photosil includes: a multi-axis robot, several protective atmosphere vessels, three crucible furnaces, four solid state frequency converters, one high frequency plasma generator, PLC and full control equipment, one special crystallization furnace, a water cooling circuit, and one plasma torch and gas supply panel. Together, this equipment transforms metallurgical silicon into Solar Grade Silicon.


There is no doubt that SPV technology will play a crucial role in energy production in the 21st century. In fact, according to a study by Greenpeace and the European Photovoltaic Equipment Association, SPV systems could be generating as much as 2,600 TWh of electricity around the world by 2030. That would be enough to meet the electricity needs of approximately 14% of the world’s population. And with experimental solar cells already reaching efficiencies in excess of 40%, and governments worldwide pledging financial incentives for solar energy, the future for SPV technology definitely looks bright.