This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

September 13, 2006

New Dow Corning Process Aims to Help Meet Solar Silicon Needs

Dow Corning Solar Solutions Group announced in early September that it has developed a new process for producing solar-grade silicon. The company produces the material from metallurgical-grade (low quality) silicon and claims that, when blended with traditional polycrystalline silicon, the result is "similar to polysilicon in terms of solar cell manufacturing and efficiency." The new silicon product is the first product for the company's new production facility in Santos Dumont, Brazil. Dow Corning has not yet disclosed the annual production capacity of the plant or the amount of polycrystalline silicon that must be blended with the product, so the impact on global solar-grade silicon supplies remains unclear. See the Dow Corning announcement.

The Dow Corning product was apparently developed as part of an ongoing project that received funding from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. That project intends to use advanced metallurgical refining processes to remove impurities such as boron and phosphorous, which are present in metallurgical-grade silicon. See the Project Brief on the NIST Web site.