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New Silicon Crystal Process Could Be Breakthrough for Cheaper Solar Energy

Derek Markham
January 28, 2013

Researchers at the University of Michigan have discovered a novel method of producing crystalline silicon, a material that’s not only in high demand in the tech and solar industries, but that also typically comes at a high cost. The raw material, silicon dioxide, or sand, is abundant, but it’s no easy task to transform it into a crystalline form of silicon.

“The crystalline silicon in modern electronics is currently made through a series of energy-intensive chemical reactions with temperatures in excess of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit that produces a lot of carbon dioxide.” – Stephen Maldonado, U-M professor of chemistry and applied physics

In contrast, Maldonado and a pair of grad students have developed a process for making silicon crystals at just 180 F, using a method they likened to making ‘rock candy’ from sugar. While rock candy uses water that is super-saturated with sugar, the new silicon crystal process uses liquid metal instead of water, and silicon instead of sugar.

Read more: New Silicon Crystal Process Could Be Breakthrough for Cheaper Solar Energy : TreeHugger.

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