Recycling inert gases used in manufacturing photovoltaics

Credit: Zbynek Burival/Unsplash

Fundamental research into solid-state oxygen carriers at the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology has been used to develop a device – the ArgonØ™ – which cleans and recycles inert gases that are used particularly in the manufacture of silicon wafers for solar PV panels and microelectronic devices.

These noble gases are needed to provide an inert atmosphere during the manufacturing process. Manufacturers typically discard the contaminated gases after use but ArgonØ gives them a cost-effective means of cleaning and recycling them, reducing their argon consumption by more than 95%. The ArgonØ system also saves the customer about 90% of the scope 3 CO2 equivalent that they buy in with the liquid argon gas from the industrial gas supplier.

Gas Recovery and Recycle Ltd (GR2L), a company set up to commercialise the research, has to date exported more than 70 of its ArgonØ gas recycling units to eight countries (China, Malaysia, Norway, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam), generating £6.2 million in revenues since 2017, making an estimated total saving for its customers in this period of $42 million and creating up to 10 jobs across the UK supply chain.