Environmental issues of material input in CDTE-module manufacturing Page: 4 of 8
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or to change critical material containing
products for those reasons.
In addition, reduced application of critical
processing materials, improved exhaust
scrubbing systems, or more efficient waste
treatment systems are going to be main
future targets within the European Union.
It helps the European harmonising efforts
on the standards of environmental, safety,
and health issues in the photovoltaic
industry. Table 5 shows some legislative
limits of cadmium in Germany, Europe,
USA and the WHO for two relevant cases
in the compartment air, soil and water. The
table shows some empty boxes, which are
due to unregulated areas. Some data have
to be added in future. It also-exists different
conceptions regarding setting up limit
values or not (see Germany versus USA for
limits in air at the working place).
Table 5: Legislative limits for cadmium
concentration in air, soil and water.
concentration FRG EU USA WHO
air environ- 0.2 10
mwit m m t/a
working - - 0.005/0.01
place m m m m __
soil agiculture 10 20-40 20-120
non 0.05 0.1/0.1
hazardous mg/I mg/1
S landfill __ _ __ _ _ _ _ _
water drinking 0.005 0.005 0.001 0.005
Water M/ m m.a m
In general the mining and refining of
rare material presents a burden to our
environment. With a view to safe and
conservative treatment of resources,
producers of PV modules should focus on
using less starting material like cadmium,
especially of very rare metals like indium or
tellurium. From the material point of view,
high purity input materials have slightly
higher impact on the environment than
purely technical (3N quality) materials.
High purity materials consume more energy
during mining and refining than technically
pure materials and enlarge at the same time
the impact on the environment by climate
and other gas emissions.
Different manufacturing techniques for
CdTe-modules represent different process
efficiencies, cause different material flows
during manufacturing and result in different
layer thicknesses. The main goal for low
effects on the environment of the
production conditions is high process
efficiency, which reduces material input and
output. It minimises the mass turnover of
environmentally relevant materials like Cd.
Recovering or recycling techniques in
module manufacturing could decrease this
impact on the environment and return
substances into the material cycles. A
future target for research and development
in thin-film technology should be in the
usage of very thin active layers on the
modules. They lower the amount of
materials deposited on the modules which
can be released in any assumed case of an
accident. Furthermore, it helps control
critical materials in the glass sandwich
which have to be handled for dismantling,
disposal or recycling as end of life or
This study was supported by the
Bundesministerium fir Forschung und
Technologie BMFT (German Ministry of
Research and Technology).
 W. Gocht, Handbuch der
Metallmarkte, Springer-Verlag, Berlin,
Heidelberg, New York, Tokyo, 1985
 P. D. Moskowitz, H. Steinberger, W.
Thumm, Health and environmental hazards
of CdTe photovoltaic module production,
use, and decomissioning, First world
conference on Photovoltaic Energy
conversion, Hawai, Dec. 5-9, 1994
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Steinberger, H.; Hochwimmer, R.; Schmid, H.; Thumm, W.; Kettrup, A. & Moskowitz, P. Environmental issues of material input in CDTE-module manufacturing, article, December 31, 1995; Upton, New York. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc666078/m1/4/: accessed May 23, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.