A/P Nripan Mathews and his team have been featured in the news for their novel technology to turn expired solar panels into novel high-performance energy-harvesting thermoelectric materials.
Silicon, which makes up 90% of solar cells, usually ends up in landfills instead of being recycled. This is because recycled silicon has impurities and defects, making it difficult for it to be used to create new functional solar cells or other silicon-based technologies.
Along with a team of scientists from A*STAR led by Dr Ady Suwardi, Deputy Head of the Soft Materials Department at the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering (IMRE), they capitalised on the contrasting properties of thermoelectrics, where the presence of impurities and defects serves to improve rather than diminish their performance, to transform old solar cells into enhanced thermoelectric materials.
This project is part of the Singapore CEA Alliance for Research in Circular Economy (SCARCE) programme that seeks to develop a variety of innovations that turn trash into treasures, thereby opening new economic growth areas for waste management and recycling.