Environmental and health aspects of CIS-module production, use and disposal Page: 2 of 5
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to identify the highest need for the conservation of re-
sources Table 1 compares total material abundance, an-
nual production rate, and minimum material consumption
of important materials needed to produce one GWe
solar modules. This roughly correlates to a 10 km
module area. Based on this analysis, it seems that in-
dium (In) and selenium (Se) will be the bottleneck mate-
rials in future.
Material I Abun- Produc- Consump-
dance tion t/a tion t/GW
copper 1 - 10 9,300,000 1100
indium 1 - 10 134 30
selenium 8 - 10 1,500 41
cadmium 3 - 10" 18,000 3
molybdenum 1 - 10- 117,000 76
soda lime glass 1 - 10" 21,000,000 125,000
Table 1. Abundance, production and material consump-
tion of important elements for thin-film module fabrication
For a CIS module the total material input of the criti-
cal element Cd is calculated for a 1 m2 module area and
a 1 pm layer thickness. CIS consumes roughly
1 g/m2/pm Cd for the cadmium-sulfide (CdS) layer for-
mation as the total input material. In comparison CdTe
uses 10 to 550 g/m2/pm Cd for the CdTe and CdS layer
formation depending on the deposition technique.
Installation, operation, use
Several authors describe problems caused by acci-
dents or incidents during installation [2-4]. Failures during
operation due to weather and other reasons may lead to
the destruction of modules which may in certain cases
lead to a release of critical substances. Table 2 shows
the different reasons for the failure of modules.as inves-
tigated by O'Riordan  on the Fota Islands in Ireland.
Reason for the problems Numbers % Ratio
Broken front glasses 22 28
Oxidation of front contacts 16 20
Color change of the sub- 15 19
Penetration of water 11 14
Broken substrate glasses 10 13
Broken ends 4 5
Laminate 1 1
In total for 2,772 modules 79 100
Table 2. Effects and problems of silicon solar modules on
the Fota Islands in Ireland
in Germany the "technical regulations for municipal
waste' demand that any kind of waste should be pre-
treated before disposal. This usually implicates incinera-
tion in a municipal waste incinerator. Other industrial
countries like USA also favour the treatment of waste in
a comparable manner. For the final disposal of wastes
(e.g. slag and filter dust) limit values are given for the
content of certain elements and organic residues. The
analytical tool for the determination of element content is
the German leaching test DEV S4.
On the basis of a one year averaged distribution of
input and output materials for a German municipal waste
incineration facility , we have estimated the total
released material in slag, filter dust and pure gas assum-
ing a 1 kW module input of CIS-technology (see Fig. 2).
These estimations again take into consideration the
materials both from the thin-film layers on the substrate
(primary) and the frame materials (secondary). The main
contribution in the case of CIS is Cu in the slag of around
200 g in total, of 43 g in filter dust and 4 g in the released
gas dust. Cadmium is represented in slag as 1.5 g, as
0.5 g in the filter dust, and around 0.05 g in the released
:g -1-ginj (Zn)
140 cadmium (Cd) -
aCopper (Cu) primary
2 Copper (Cu) -
Slag E-filter dust
Fig. 2. Output material distribution of a 1 kW CIS-module
input into a municipal waste incineration facility in Ger-
Preexperiments on commercially available CdTe-mo-
dules for recycling have been carried out using liquid ni-
trogen, sand blasting techniques and HCI etching. Liquid
nitrogen has peeled off large areas of thin-film layers.
The remaining residues on the surface of the glass sub-
strate were then etched back by HCI, which left a clean
transparent glass substrate showing small reflecting
zones along the removed structuring lines. Sand blasting
with different particle sizes seems also possible for re-
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Thumm, W.; Finke, A.; Neumeier, B.; Beck, B.; Kettrup, A.; Steinberger, H. et al. Environmental and health aspects of CIS-module production, use and disposal, report, December 31, 1994; Upton, New York. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc683046/m1/2/: accessed April 23, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.