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IMB Process Turns Scrap Silicon Wafers into Solar Cells  (Source: IBM)
IBM reclaims junk silicon for solar panels

We all use items every day that have components that start as silicon wafers – items ranging from our computers and cell phones to our digital cameras. What many don’t know is the sheer volume of silicon wafers that are started in production each day and end up being discarded.

IBM says these discarded wafers were traditionally ground up and thrown into landfills or melted down and resold because of the intellectual property on the wafers, which kept them from being able to be resold outside the company.

IBM announced today a new process that it invented to take discarded silicon wafers and reclaim them specifically to be sold to the solar cell manufacturing industry. The new reclamation process involves taking etched silicon wafers that are discarded and using a polish wheel/compound along with de-ionized water to remove all of the intellectual property from the surface of the wafer. The process does not damage the silicon underneath.

This new process is revolutionary won IBM the “2007 Most Valuable Pollution Prevention Award” from The National Pollution Prevention Program. IBM says that worldwide about 250,000 silicon wafers are started each day and that up to 3.3 percent of these wafers end up being discarded amounting to about three million discarded wafers each year.

In addition to merely saving the material and time used in the manufacturing of the reclaimed silicon wafers, IBM says that it sees an overall 90 percent energy savings because repurposing the scrap means IBM doesn’t have to manufacture as many new wafers to meet demands of its production process.

Companies that buy the repurposed wafers can save 30 to 90 percent of the energy normally needed if they used new silicon material as the source. Using this new process IBM was able to save more than $500,000 USD in 2006 and ongoing savings for 2007 will be near $1.5 million USD.

Solar panel manufacturers are also excited about this new process, "One of the challenges facing the solar industry is a severe shortage of silicon, which threatens to stall its rapid growth,” said Charles Bai, CFO of ReneSola, one of China's fastest growing solar energy companies. "This is why we have turned to reclaimed silicon materials sourced primarily from the semiconductor industry to supply the raw material our company needs to manufacture solar panels."

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I have a sneaking suspicion
By kileil on 10/30/2007 5:15:13 PM , Rating: 4
That this endeavor likely involves SCIENCE!!!


RE: I have a sneaking suspicion
By Gul Westfale on 10/30/2007 5:49:11 PM , Rating: 1
no, it was all planned by god, last monday. really.

RE: I have a sneaking suspicion
By clovell on 10/30/2007 5:57:32 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, I actually listened on that conference call - I remember Al Gore bringing up the idea.

RE: I have a sneaking suspicion
By Gul Westfale on 10/30/2007 7:13:25 PM , Rating: 3
so are you saying that this was al gore's idea? jesus f. christ man, first he invents the internet, then he saves us from manbearpig, and now this? quick, someone give this man a nobel prize! oh, wait...

RE: I have a sneaking suspicion
By Etsp on 10/30/2007 8:24:03 PM , Rating: 2
Now he just needs to save us from the manbearpig in our...imaginations!

RE: I have a sneaking suspicion
By quickk on 10/31/2007 10:09:35 AM , Rating: 5
What Al Gore said was:
During my service in the United States Congress I took the initiative in creating the internet. [1]

His statement is completely justified considering he created and introduced the High Performance Computing and Communication Act of 1991, which led to the creation of a high speed fiber optic network and then the Mosaic web browser in 1993 [2].

Two internet pioneers Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn have said:

[A]s the two people who designed the basic architecture and the core protocols that make the Internet work, we would like to acknowledge VP Gore's contributions as a Congressman, Senator and as Vice President. No other elected official, to our knowledge, has made a greater contribution over a longer period of time. [3]

For a complete description, see this wiki page:

[1] [

RE: I have a sneaking suspicion
By Gul Westfale on 10/31/2007 11:21:42 PM , Rating: 2
kind of ironic, how the husband of tipper "PMRC" gore is associated with the creation of the greatest porno delivery system in the history of mankind.

RE: I have a sneaking suspicion
By quickk on 11/1/2007 3:30:02 PM , Rating: 2
I should of checked my links... To get the first link to work, remove the period at the end. The correct link should be:

RE: I have a sneaking suspicion
By Ringold on 10/30/2007 8:03:34 PM , Rating: 2
Gore talking to God?

No, I think you are recalling Brimstone Corp's Q4 call. A chorus of serpents hissed in pleasure as misery in Africa increased at an annual rate of 666% and energy costs rose for the 13th straight quarter; Gore suggested this tech would be a fantastic way to distract Brimstones competitors with false hope. ;)

Osama satellite phoned in near the end, promised more Jihad, but analysts were sceptical and guided down consensus estimated body counts for Q1 but remain upbeat on Darfur.

RE: I have a sneaking suspicion
By Gul Westfale on 10/30/2007 11:13:49 PM , Rating: 3
didn't know gore was a republican.


RE: I have a sneaking suspicion
By quickk on 10/31/2007 10:16:24 AM , Rating: 4
You must be mistaken... I think that Bush has dibs on talking to God. In his own words:

God would tell me, George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan. And I did, and then God would tell me, George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq... And I did. [1]

Some have speculated that it was actually Cheney on the intercom... [2]


RE: I have a sneaking suspicion
By clovell on 10/31/2007 6:53:56 PM , Rating: 2
You must have missed the Q2 conference call, God doesn't do dibs anymore - I'l bet you can guess who brought up that idea...

RE: I have a sneaking suspicion
By wushuktl on 10/31/2007 7:19:00 AM , Rating: 2
Look at me still talking when there's science to do

RE: I have a sneaking suspicion
By geddarkstorm on 10/31/2007 12:12:09 PM , Rating: 2
...on the people who are still alive.

RE: I have a sneaking suspicion
By porkpie on 10/31/2007 10:17:44 AM , Rating: 2
That this endeavor likely involves SCIENCE!!!
Yeah, a bunch of guys standing around saying "too bad we can't recycle these wafers because of all the IP etched onto them". Then a light bulb goes off, and one of them says, "hey....why don't we SANDPAPER them down?"

Nice idea, but don't think that it took a huge amount of research and mathematical calculations.

And these new solar panels
By CRimer76 on 10/30/2007 4:48:12 PM , Rating: 1
are being held by people who don't appear to have much contact with the sun at all.

Oh the irony.

RE: And these new solar panels
By Spoelie on 10/30/2007 6:32:59 PM , Rating: 3
you mean there are people who actually work instead of suntanning all day long??

surf's up duuuuuuuuuuuuuuude

RE: And these new solar panels
By FITCamaro on 10/30/2007 7:01:14 PM , Rating: 2
Its a strange concept to be sure.

RE: And these new solar panels
By CRimer76 on 10/31/2007 11:17:40 AM , Rating: 2
I live in Louisiana.

Not a lot of surfing unless you want to get eaten by something.

And nevermind, I just thought it was funny that these 2 work with solar energy and were all white and pasty. Figured they would be spending more time you know, in the sun.

But going outside seems to be a touchy subject here so I will leave it alone.

How come?
By spindoc on 10/30/2007 6:45:28 PM , Rating: 2
Are they blind? They are wearing sunglasses inside...

Maybe he is "The Dude" but I don't know about the girl.

RE: How come?
By tdktank59 on 10/30/2007 7:13:06 PM , Rating: 2
who doesn't wear sunglasses in side now a days????

Anyways this is a awesome step for IBM to maybe be the bigger person and step forward into tomorrow instead of staying into today where so much goes to waste...

RE: How come?
By Omega215D on 10/30/2007 11:33:19 PM , Rating: 2
I wear my sunglasses at night... gotta love the 80's

I guess their sunglasses go with the story on Solar panels from bad chips.

RE: How come?
By drank12quartsstrohsbeer on 10/31/2007 10:29:10 AM , Rating: 2
Don't be fooled... they are both Terminators sent here from the future by AlGoreNet

By nowayout99 on 10/30/2007 8:18:17 PM , Rating: 3
Cudos to IBM and all that good stuff, but the reason they care (as with most companies) is because of the cost savings. Any "green" social statement is purely coincidental, though it is not a bad thing either.

Hope more companies can jump on board with this.

RE: Nice
By wordsworm on 10/31/2007 12:28:19 AM , Rating: 1
Any "green" social statement is purely coincidental
Yah... it's not like they're HUMANs running the company. Only non-business owners care about the environment.

RE: Nice
By nowayout99 on 10/31/2007 2:32:24 AM , Rating: 2
They follow the money trail first.

RE: Nice
By wordsworm on 10/31/2007 9:47:59 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think IBM is like an Exxon or oil company. IBM has a lot of educated people while Exxon has a lot of people who are all about ignorance is bliss. I wouldn't be surprised if there were a lot of people at IBM who are sincerely concerned for the environment, whereas Exxon probably wouldn't care if its ships ran an oil slick the size of the Pacific aside from the profits lost on the oil.

good invention
By Gul Westfale on 10/30/2007 4:43:40 PM , Rating: 5
making something useful out of what would otherwise become garbage- kudos to IBM.

RE: good invention
By nayy on 10/30/2007 6:50:35 PM , Rating: 2
You most really admire grabage diggers.
In all seriousness I agree this is a great step in the right direction, It has several benefits
- Lower waste cost for manufactures, which is a good way to improve their margins
- Attends to demands of silicon for solar panels which reduces the pressure on the cost of silicon
- Is eco friendly for both reducing waste and helping increase renewable energy sources

Kudos to IBM

By semo on 10/30/2007 7:20:28 PM , Rating: 2
those are some tiny wafers. what does ibm use them for? what does ibm use silicon wafers for these days anyway, research?

RE: ?
By Gul Westfale on 10/30/2007 7:27:32 PM , Rating: 3
as far as i know wafers commonly in use today are either 200mm or 300mm; this looks like a 200mm to me.

RE: ?
By wordsworm on 10/31/2007 12:23:37 AM , Rating: 2
By DeepBlue1975 on 10/30/2007 11:05:59 PM , Rating: 3
IBM's research team is f*****g great!

I found them to be the most innovative and resourceful IT industry there is out there. The more time passes by, the more they show their core business revolves around research and "discovery" more than just getting a better market share while taking the least possible risk.

Where would the IT be without IBM?

RE: Awesome!
By ira176 on 10/31/2007 4:11:43 AM , Rating: 2
Didn't I read somewhere that IBM was responsible for the most patents in 2006?

RE: Awesome!
By theapparition on 10/31/2007 7:32:14 AM , Rating: 2
IBM has consistantly held the title of the company being granted the most patents year after year. As memory serves, something like 17 out of the last 20 years.

Sorry, but I'm too lazy to actually look up the exact numbers.

By orangeaids on 10/30/2007 4:37:57 PM , Rating: 2
And the news FINALLY hits public airways :)

go IBM BTV and Fishkill!!

awesome for IBM.
By jadeskye on 10/30/2007 4:46:38 PM , Rating: 2
Being part of a group of companies that produce computer components that suck up energy it's gonna be good for their PR to say they can contribute to renewable sources of energy.

Well done to IBM. hopefully intel and AMD can purchase this proceedure from them or develop their own.

Severe shortage of silicon?
By jay2o01 on 10/31/2007 2:08:55 AM , Rating: 2
If thats the case... and there really is a severe shortage on silicon... perhaps IBM should focus on inventing a way to harvest it from sand...

Efficiency of panels?
By MrTeal on 10/31/2007 10:02:07 AM , Rating: 2
Generally, as I understand it, monocrystalline Si solar panels have better efficiency than poly panels do. If this sort of reuse gains momentum, I wonder if it would lower the cost of high efficiency panels.

By crystal clear on 10/31/2007 10:12:52 PM , Rating: 2
IBM should sell/license this technology to Intel/AMD & the rest of the industry.

IBM can recover all its R&D costs & still make a good profit on this project.

Any recycling project is worth the investment & effort.

"I want people to see my movies in the best formats possible. For [Paramount] to deny people who have Blu-ray sucks!" -- Movie Director Michael Bay

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