The rise in solar panel installations across Europe over recent years will be mirrored by a rise in panels soon reaching the end of their life, which poses a huge challenge for the recycling industry.
Faced with the difficult task of recycling and revalorising raw materials in the photovoltaic industry, French start-up firm ROSI is hoping that innovation has the answer.
ROSI's General Manager Antoine Chalaux told Euronews about how they recycle the materials in Europe's solar panels.
"The first step is crucial -- to correctly separate the materials that make up the photovoltaic panels," he explained. "The photovoltaic panel is very well protected by a weather-resistant glass sheet which lets the light through - to create the photovoltaic effect."
"Inside, we have photovoltaic cells. They are very small, but they’re the most valuable part, so the aim is to unglue all these elements that are stuck together to make sure the photovoltaic panel lasts as long as possible," he added.
"The first step is a thermal process. We use pyrolysis to get rid of the polymers that hold all these materials together. Once these materials are detached from each other, we use a mechanical sorting process to separate them and, lastly, we recover the photovoltaic cells, which are made from silicon and silver."
"We use a chemical process that doesn't dissolve the metals but simply detaches the silver wires on the photovoltaic cells. These silver wires are very valuable. Then the fragments of silicon cells, which are of very high purity silicon, are recovered and reused in the European industry," Chalaux concluded.