British company GR2L, led by Dr Rob Grant FRSC, has created a proven process for recycling argon and reducing this element of the production cost of solar ingots – a world first.
GR2L’s ArgonØ ™, which is the first commercial product to utilise a new breed of purification technology based on chemical looping combustion, has been tested extensively in facilities in South Korea and Taiwan and proven successful in the cost effective recycling of argon.
The compact, point of use ArgonØ ™ can typically service up to eight vacuum furnaces, subject to a maximum recycle flow limit of approximately 15 Nm3/hr. The ArgonØ ™, which uses a minimal amount of electricity, can be retrofitted with relatively little disruption to production (hours rather than days) and does not need to be in close proximity to the furnaces it is serving so can be situated where space is available.
The ArgonØ ™ recycles more than 95% of the purge gases back to the process at purity levels that exceed the Semi PV6-1110 requirements. Contamination in the thousands of ppm is typically reduced to less than 1 ppm.
The ArgonØ ™ offers significant financial benefits; it will show a return on investment in 2-3 years, and is capable of saving a mid-volume ingot producer millions of dollars. It also offers environmental benefits, reducing the CO2 footprint of a typical vacuum furnace by 3-5 tonnes per annum. Importantly, ArgonØ ¬™ offers solar ingots manufacturers reduced dependence on traditional gas suppliers, improved security of supply of argon and relative protection from price fluctuations.