Concrete benefit from photovoltaic waste

A new green technology that recycles photovoltaic glass fines into a material as partial replacement for sand in concrete is being developed in Melbourne in a sustainability-first for Australia.

OJAS is working with RMIT University and the University of Melbourne on a first-of-its-kind facility that converts end-of-life photovoltaic (PV)modules into clean glass, silicon cells and polymers.

Application of the partnership’s ‘cutting-edge research’ can conserve raw materials used in concrete production while minimising its carbon footprint according to lead researcher, Dr Massoud Sofi from the University of Melbourne.

Dr Sofi also said it will reduce the depletion of sand in the streambed and along coastal areas which cause ecological issues. His colleague, Professor Priyan Mendis, said they are focused on developing specific applications of the PV glass-based concrete materials.

Research to date has revealed that PV glass fines (small glass particles generated from grinding the glass) can be effectively used as a partial replacement for sand in concrete, according to the UoM  team.

In 2020, OJAS was awarded a $3 million Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) project grant which will see a PV module upcycling plant in Victoria fully operational by the end of 2023. It will be processing end-of-life PV modules using an innovative separation technology from Europe that will recover clean glass, silicon cells and polymer from PV panel waste. It is expected that the plant will be supplying materials by that stage, and OJAS has revealed plans to roll out similar plants across Australia, with a focus on developing a nationwide network.

About the author

Desi Corbett

Desi is the Editor of Concrete in Australia and at the helm of our magazine for 8 years. She was behind the Institute's weekly news bulletins from 2016-2021 and is now writing our focused news items. Desi has been an engineering news and features journalist/editor across all disciplines since 2013 - part of a 30-year career writing for a wide range of industries.