IBM Scrapes Silicon Scraps

Water-based abrasion technique avoids chemicals; recycles silicon for solar panels
By Lucas Laursen,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 30, 2007 10:55 AM CDT
Demand for solar panels has grown since Germany began subsidizing them in 2004. (AP Photo/Matthias Rietschel)   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – IBM has developed an eco-friendly way of recycling silicon for eco-friendly solar panels. Semiconductor chipmakers often sell used silicon too thin for computing to solar panel manufacturers. Until now, they’ve used abrasive chemicals or a spray of glass beads to erase circuits from the chips. IBM plans to share the technique with other chipmakers, but hasn’t announced specifics.

Texas Instruments sold about 1 million scrap chips for $8 million last year, and IBM estimates the scrap market at 3 million chips. A global shortage of silicon due to increasing demand for solar panels is expected to last at least through next year. Solar panel makers are increasingly modifying panels to work with impurities, which normally scuttle power generation.