IBM semiconductors to be recycled

IBM semiconductors to be recycled

Pioneering process to re-use rejected wafers could help tackle silicon shortage

Rejected semiconductors could be recycled into solar panels thanks to a new process to remove intellectual property from the wafer surface, according to IBM.

More than three per cent of the 250,000 silicon wafers started every day are scrapped, generating about three million discarded wafers every year, says the company.

If placed end to end, these wafers would stretch for 375 miles and could produce 57 million kilowatt hours in solar panels.

The process - which is being put into practice at IBM's New York semiconductor plant - generates overall energy savings of up to 90 per cent and cuts the need for new wafers.

Solar cell manufacturers can also save between 30 and 90 per cent of the energy that they would have used on a new silicon material source.

Reclaimed materials are vital to the growing solar power industry, according to Charles Bai, chief financial officer of Renesola, a chinese solar panel company.

"One of the challenges facing the industry is a server shortage of silicon, which threatens to stall its rapid growth," said Bai.

"We have turned to reclaimed silicon materials sourced primarily from the semiconductor industry."