Assessment of the energy recovery potential of waste Photovoltaic (PV) modules

Farrell, Charlie and Osman, Ahmed I. and Zhang, Xiaolei and Murphy, Adrian and Doherty, Rory and Morgan, Kevin and Rooney, David W. and Harrison, John and Coulter, Rachel and Shen, Dekui (2019) Assessment of the energy recovery potential of waste Photovoltaic (PV) modules. Scientific Reports, 9. pp. 1-13. 5267. ISSN 2045-2322 (

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Global exponential increase in levels of Photovoltaic (PV) module waste is an increasing concern. The purpose of this study is to investigate if there is energy value in the polymers contained within first-generation crystalline silicon (c-Si) PV modules to help contribute positively to recycling rates and the circular economy. One such thermochemical conversion method that appeals to this application is pyrolysis. As c-Si PV modules are made up of glass, metal, semiconductor and polymer layers; pyrolysis has potential not to promote chemical oxidation of any of these layers to help aid delamination and subsequently, recovery. Herein, we analysed both used polymers taken from a deconstructed used PV module and virgin-grade polymers prior to manufacture to determine if any properties or thermal behaviours had changed. The calorific values of the used and virgin-grade Ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) encapsulant were found to be high, unchanged and comparable to that of biodiesel at 39.51 and 39.87 MJ.Kg−1, respectively. This result signifies that there is energy value within used modules. As such, this study has assessed the pyrolysis behaviour of PV cells and has indicated the energy recovery potential within the used polymers found in c-Si PV modules.


Farrell, Charlie, Osman, Ahmed I., Zhang, Xiaolei ORCID logoORCID:, Murphy, Adrian, Doherty, Rory, Morgan, Kevin, Rooney, David W., Harrison, John, Coulter, Rachel and Shen, Dekui;