HPQ Silicon on track for disrupting the solar industry
HPQ Silicon Resources Inc. (TSXV: HPQ) reported on September 29, 2016 that its PUREVAPtm process is performing as previously expected with the production of 3N+ purity of silicon metal and particularly the removal of boron impurities, a troublesome contaminant in solar voltaic cells.
While HPQ is now engaged in an optimization program to reach 6N purity, easy steps can take it well over 4N purity in the short run.
Boron contamination in photovoltaics negatively affects the conversion efficiency of solar grade cells. Therefore boron removal is critical to HPQ’s PUREVAPtm process.
Analyses by arm’s length laboratories in Canada and the USA confirmed purity of silicon metal as high as 99.97%, which confirms that the PUREVAPtm process displays significant capacity to remove impurities including boron.
HPQ disclosed a report summarizing the results from 15 experimental development trials, which confirmed that the PUREVAPtm process combining different known steps into a one step process has now been validated.
Progressive experimental work conducted during the last quarter’s program advanced the process from producing sporadic and thin layers of Silicon Metal (from either the tip of the electrode or the bottom of the crucible), to producing nuggets of significant sizes.
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The current report on the removal of impurities is a major milestone as it validates HPQ’s claim that the PUREVAPtm process can transform Quartz (SiO2) into Silicon Metal (Si), while removing impurities in a single step.
Boron (B) and Phosphorous (P) are the most challenging impurities to remove for the production solar grade silicon. Their removal is critical since elevated contents in silicon metal will affect the conversion efficiency of solar grade cells, the maximum tolerance for B and P in Solar Grade Silicon Metal are respectively 0.3 ppm and 0.1 ppm.
The next development phase aims at:
- Using the full energy potential of the plasma-submerged arc in the Vacuum;
- Adjust operational characteristic of the systems;
- Include new technological options; and,
- Changing supplies that add contaminants to the process.
For example, a carbon source previously used as a process catalyst contaminated the residual silicon with sulphur. Hence, assuming 100% removal of the sulphur during the process suggests that the current results, instead of obtaining purity result in a range from 99.88% up to 99.97, the results range could have been between 99.95% up to 99.991%–4N purity.
The PUREVAPtm process’ disruptive advantage is its one step direct transformation of Quartz into High Purity Silicon Metal, Solar Grade Silicon Metal and/or Higher Purity product, thereby potentially allowing HPQ Silicon to manufacture high value material for the same operating cost presently being paid by traditional producers to make Metallurgical Grade Si (98.5% Si) using the traditional arc furnace approach at high energy cost.
HPQ Silicon is the largest holder of High Purity Quartz properties in Quebec, a mining-friendly jurisdiction with low power costs with over 3,500 ha under claims. Despite the abundance of quartz, very few deposits are suitable for high purity applications. High Purity Quartz supplies are tightening, prices are rising, and exponential growth is forecast. Quartz from the Roncevaux property successfully passed rigorous testing protocols of a major silicon metal producer confirming that our material is highly suited for their silicon metal production.
Dr. Luc C. Duchesne is a Speaker and Author with a PhD in Biochemistry. With three decades of scientific and business experience, he has published ... <Read more about Dr. Luc Duchesne>