MONTREAL, QC., February 2019 /pvbuzz media/ — Montreal-based HPQ Silicon Resources (TSX: HPQ) is moving forward with its PUREVAP™ Quartz Reduction Reactor (QRR) Project. The technology could lead to cheaper and greener production of solar-grade silicon and solar cells.
Since 2015 HPQ has been working on developing a new process for producing high-grade Silicon metal (Si) for the manufacture of solar cells.
Silicon is one of the most abundant elements on earth, but most of it is locked up in silicon dioxide, SiO2, the main component of familiar materials like sand and quartz. In order to produce solar cells, quartz is usually refined to Metallurgical grade Si (MG-Si) through a smelting process. While relatively cheap, this process has a purity limit of around 99.5% Si.
But Solar-grade Silicon (SoG-Si) requires purity of 99.999% (5N) or higher, usually achieved through a chemical distillation process. This process produces large quantities of toxic byproducts and also uses a lot of energy, which is a major contributor to the large environmental footprint involved in the process of solar manufacturing.
In China, where most of the world’s SoG Si is produced, every kg of SoG Si produced generates around 140 kg of CO2; in Germany, this number is closer to 88 kg of CO2.
“HPQ-Silicon’s PUREVAP™ QRR process, operated in Quebec, only produces 5.4 kg CO2 per kg of SoG Si. A 96% reduction in the carbon footprint compared to existing processes,” says Bernard Tourillon, CEO at HPQ Silicon. “This is why we are so excited about this ‘green’ opportunity that is about to revolutionize the global solar energy industry.”
“This efficient process also reduces the costs associated with producing the SoG Si. HPQ expects to reduce the operating expenses involved in the refining process by 30-60% while lowering the capex by 60-86%,” adds Tourillon.
The PUREVAP™ QRR process converts Quartz into Silicon Metal of 99.9% to 99.99% Si, (referred to as 3N and 4N, respectively) in a single step. At this purity, the metal can then be refined metallurgically to 5N (SoG-Si). The whole process uses far less energy and materials – and costs less – than the traditional process.
The PUREVAP™ QRR process was developed in partnership with Pyrogenesis Canada Inc. (PYR), which specializes in high-temperature plasma technologies.
In 2015 Pyrogenesis presented a proof-of-concept (GEN 1) process, which was tested through 2016 and led to the improved design of a GEN 2 reactor, which was operating by late 2017.
In 2017 the French firm Apollon Solar also joined the project, bringing its expertise in managing the final metallurgical refinements needed to achieve Solar-Grade Silicon (SoG-Si).
In 2018 HPQ closed on $5.2 million in financing, with participation from PYR and additional support from the Quebec government.
The GEN 1 reactor achieved the highest purity of 99.92% (3N), and theoretical calculations on indicating that the GEN 2 design could achieve purity of 99.998% (4N+) at scale.
A GEN 3 pilot is being assembled in a dedicated area at PyroGenesis’ facility in Montréal. The assembly will be completed during Q1 2019, commissioned during Q2 2019 and operational mid – 2019, just 3 years after the original concept was validated.
“The success we have attained in less than 3 years is spectacular and the de-risking that has occurred with every successful phase is significant,” says Tourillon. “The HPQ Silicon team is more convinced than ever that we will be successful in having a commercially viable process at the end of 2019.”
About HPQ Silicon
HPQ Silicon Resources Inc. is a TSX-V listed resource company focuses on becoming a vertically integrated and diversified High Purity, Solar Grade Silicon Metal (SoG-Si) producer and a manufacturer of multi and monocrystalline solar cells of the P and N types, required for the production of high-performance photovoltaic conversion.
HPQ’s goal is to develop, in collaboration with industry leaders, PyroGenesis (PYR.V) and Apollon Solar, that are experts in their fields of interest, the innovative PUREVAPTM “Quartz Reduction Reactors (QRR)”, a truly 2.0 Carbothermic process (patent pending), which will permit the transformation and purification of quartz (SiO2) into high purity silicon metal (Si) in one step and reduce by a factor of at least two-thirds (2/3) the costs associated with the transformation of quartz (SiO2) into SoG Si. The pilot plant equipment that will validate the commercial potential of the process is on schedule to start mid-2019.
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