Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 26, Issue 29, pp 29524–29531 | Cite as

Leaching of metals from end-of-life solar cells

  • Mital Chakankar
  • Chun Hui Su
  • Hong HochengEmail author
Current trends in Sustainable Energy, Engineering, Materials and Environment


The issue of recycling waste solar cells is critical with regard to the expanded use of these cells, which increases waste production. Technology establishment for this recycling process is essential with respect to the valuable and hazardous metals present therein. In the present study, the leaching potentials of Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans, Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans, Penicillium chrysogenum, and Penicillium simplicissimum were assessed for the recovery of metals from spent solar cells, with a focus on retrieval of the valuable metal Te. Batch experiments were performed to explore and compare the metal removal efficiencies of the aforementioned microorganisms using spent media. P. chrysogenum spent medium was found to be most effective, recovering 100% of B, Mg, Si, V, Ni, Zn, and Sr along with 93% of Te at 30 °C, 150 rpm and 1% (w/v) pulp density. Further optimization of the process parameters increased the leaching efficiency, and 100% of Te was recovered at the optimum conditions of 20 °C, 200 rpm shaking speed and 1% (w/v) pulp density. In addition, the recovery of aluminum increased from 31 to 89% upon process optimization. Thus, the process has considerable potential for metal recovery and is environmentally beneficial.


Metal recovery Tellurium Solar cells Leaching Penicillium Fungus 


  1. Ahmad B, Bhatti HN, Ilyas S (2011) Bio-extraction of metal ions from laterite ore by Penicillium chrysogenum. Afr J Biotechnol 10(54):11196–11205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Amiri F, Yaghmaei S, Mousavi SM (2011) Bioleaching of tungsten-rich spent hydrocracking catalyst using Penicillium simplicissimum. Bioresour Technol 102:1567–1573CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aung KMM, Ting YP (2005) Bioleaching of spent fluid catalytic cracking catalysts using Aspergillus niger. Biotechnology 116:159–170Google Scholar
  4. Barik S, Park K, Parhi P, Park J, Nam C (2012) Extraction of metal values from waste spent petroleum catalyst using acidic solutions. Sep Purif Technol 1:85–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Berger W, Simon FG, Weimann K, Alsema EA (2010) A novel approach for the recycling of thin film photovoltaic modules. Resour Conserv Recycl 54:711–718CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brandl H, Faramarzi MA (2006) Microbe-metal-interactions for the biotechnological treatment of metal-containing solid waste. China Particuol 4(2):93–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Burgstaller W, Schinner F (1993) Leaching of metals with fungi. J Biotechnol 27:91–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chiang YW, Santos RM, Van Audenaerde A, Monballiu A, Van Gerven T, Meesschaert B (2014) Chemoorganotrophic bioleaching of olivine for nickel recovery. Fortschr Mineral 4:553–564CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Deng X, Chai L, Yang Z, Tang C, Wang Y, Shi Y (2013) Bioleaching mechanism of heavy metals in the mixture of contaminated soil and slag by using indigenous Penicillium chrysogenum strain F1. J Hazard Mater 248–249:107–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Druyan A (2016) The effect of solar power growth on metals demand.
  11. Espiari S, Rashchi F, Sadrnezhaad S (2006) Hydrometallurgical treatment of tailings with high zinc content. Hydrometallurgy 82:54–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Espinosa-Ortiz EJ, Gonzalez-Gil G, Saikaly PE, van Hullebusch ED, Lens PNL (2015) Effects of selenium oxyanions on the white-rot fungus Phanerochaete chrysosporium. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 99:2405–2418CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fan X, Xing W, Dong H, Zhao J, Wu Y, Li B, Tong W, Wu X (2013) Factors research on the influence of leaching rate of nickel and cobalt from waste superalloys with sulfuric acid. Int J Nonferrous Met 2:63–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. First Solar (2008) Product life cycle management,;
  15. Fomina M, Alexander IJ, Colpaert JV, Gadd GM (2005) Solubilization of toxic metal minerals and metal tolerance of mycorrhizal fungi. Soil Biol Biochem 37:851–866CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fthenakis V (2009) Sustainability of photovoltaics: the case for thin-film solar cells. Renew Sustain Energy Rev 13(9):2746–2750CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fthenakis V, Anctil A (2013) Direct Te Mining: resource availability and impact on cumulative energy demand of CdTe PV life cycles. IEEE J Photovoltaics 3(1):433–438CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gadd GM (1999) Fungal production of citric and oxalic acid: importance in metal speciation, physiology and biogeochemical processes. Adv Microb Physiol 41:47–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gadd GM (2007) Geomycology: biogeochemical transformations of rocks, minerals, metals and radionuclides by fungi, bioweathering and bioremediation. Mycol Res 111:3–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gadd GM (2010) Metals, minerals and microbes: geomicrobiology and bioremediation. Microbiology 156:609–643CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gharieb MM, Kierans M, Gadd GM (1999) Transformation and tolerance of tellurite by filamentous fungi: accumulation, reduction, and volatilization. Mycol Res 103:299–305CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ghorbani Y, Oliazadeh M, Shahverdian A, Roohi R, Piraehgar A (2007) Use of some isolated fungi in biological leaching of aluminum from low grade bauxite. African J Biotechnol 6: 1284–1288Google Scholar
  23. Grandell L, Hook M (2015) Assessing rare metal availability challenges for solar energy technologies. Sustainability 7:11818–11837CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Groudeva V, Krumova K, Groudev S (2007) Bioleaching of a rich-in-carbonates copper ore at alkaline pH. Adv Mater Res 20-21:103–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hocheng H, Chang J, Jadhav U (2012) Micromachining of various metals by using Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans 13820 culture supernatant experiments. J Clean Prod 20:180–185CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hocheng H, Su C, Jadhav UU (2014a) Bioleaching of metals from steel slag by Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans culture supernatant. Chemosphere 117:652–657CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hocheng H, Hong T, Jadhav U (2014b) Microbial leaching of waste solder for recovery of metal. Appl Biochem Biotechnol 173:193–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hoque M, Philip O (2011) Biotechnological recovery of heavy metals from secondary sources—an overview. Mater Sci Eng C 31:57–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ilyas S, Lee JC (2013) Fungal leaching of metals from electronic scrap. Miner Metall Process 30:151–156Google Scholar
  30. Ilyas S, Chi R, Lee JC (2013) Fungal bioleaching of metals from mine tailing. Miner Process Extr Metall Rev 34:185–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Isildar A, van de Vossenberg J, Rene ER, van Hullebusch ED, Lens PNL (2017) Biorecovery of metals from electronic waste. In: Rene ER, Sahinkaya E, Lewis A, Lens PNL (eds) Sustainable heavy metal remediation: vol 2: case studies. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  32. Jadhav U, Hocheng H (2013) Extraction of silver from spent silver oxideezinc button cells by using Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans culture supernatant. J Clean Prod 44:39–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Jadhav U, Hocheng H (2015) Analysis of metal bioleaching from thermal power plant fly ash by Aspergillus niger 34770 culture supernatant and reduction of phytotoxicity during the process. Appl Biochem Biotechnol 175:870–881CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Jadhav U, Hocheng H, Weng W (2013) Innovative use of biologically produced ferric sulfate for machining of copper metal and study of specific metal removal rate and surface roughness during the process. J Mater Process Technol 213:1509–1515CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Jadhav U, Su C, Hocheng H (2016) Leaching of metals from large pieces of printed circuit boards using citric acid and hydrogen peroxide. Environ Sci Pollut Res 23:24384–24392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kang S, Yoo S, Lee J, Boo B, Ryu H (2012) Experimental investigations for recycling of silicon and glass from waste photovoltaic modules. Renew Energy 47:152–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kim S, Bae J, Park H, Cha D (2005) Bioleaching of cadmium and nickel from synthetic sediments by Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans. Environ Geochem Health 27:229–235CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Kim MJ, Seo JY, Choi YS, Kim GH (2016) Bioleaching of spent zn-mn or ni-cd batteries by Aspergillus species. Waste Manag 51:168–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Klugmann-Radziemska E, Ostrowski P (2010) Chemical treatment of crystalline silicon solar cells as a method of recovering pure silicon from photovoltaic modules. Renew Energy 35:1751–1759CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Latunussa CEL, Ardente F, Blengini GA, Mancini L (2016) Life cycle assessment of an innovative recycling process for crystalline silicon photovoltaic panels. Sol Energy Mater Sol Cells 156:101–111CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Liang X, Gadd GM (2017) Metal and metalloid biorecovery using fungi. Microb Biotechnol 10:1199–1205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Mishra D, Kim DJ, Ralph DE, Ahn JG, Rhee YH (2008) Bioleaching of metals from spent lithium ion secondary batteries using Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans. Waste Manag 28(2):333–338. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Monier V, Hestin M (2011) Study on photovoltaic panels supplementing the impact assessment for a recast of the WEEE directive. In: Service, B.I. (Ed.), A project under the framework contract ENV.G.4/FRA/2007/0067, Paris, France, 10Google Scholar
  44. Mulligan CN, Mahtab Kamali M (2003) Bioleaching of copper and other metals from low-grade oxidized mining ores by Aspergillus niger. J Chem Technol Biotechnol 78:497–503CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Ollivier PRL, Bahrou AS, Church TM, Hanson TE (2011) Aeration controls the reduction and methylation of tellurium by the aerobic, tellurite-resistant marine yeast Rhodotorula mucilaginosa. Appl Environ Microbiol 77:4610–4617CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Ottosson LG, Logg K, Ibstedt S, Sunnerhagen P, Kall M, Blomberg A, Warringer J (2010) Sulfate assimilation mediates tellurite reduction and toxicity in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Eukaryot Cell 9:1635–1647CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Parhi P, Park K, Senanayake G (2013) A kinetic study on hydrochloric acid leaching of nickel from Ni–Al2O3 spent catalyst. J Ind Eng Chem 19:589–594CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Ren WX, Li PJ, Geng Y, Li XJ (2009) Biological leaching of heavy metals from a contaminated soil by Aspergillus niger. J Hazard Mater 167:164–169CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Saito C, Okada H, Titus M, Yoshioka T, Mizoguchi T (2007) Leaching of heavy metals from fly ash generated from gasification and melting furnace for municipal solid wastes by organic acids. Jpn Soc Waste Manag Expert 18:157–166CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Santhiya D, Ting YP (2006) Use of adapted Aspergillus niger in the bioleaching of spent refinery processing catalyst. J Biotechnol 121(1):62–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Sarkar J, Saha S, Dey P, Acharya K (2012) Production of selenium nanorods by phytopathogen, Alternaria alternata. Adv Sci Lett 5:1–4CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Ting Y, Kumar A, Rahman M, Chia B (2000) Innovative use of Thiobacillus ferrooxidans for the biological machining of metals. Acta Biotechnol 20:87–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Vaghar R (1998) Hydrometallurgy Iranian Copper Industry Co., IranGoogle Scholar
  54. Vetchinkina E, Loshchinina E, Kursky V, Nikitina V (2013) Reduction of organic and inorganic selenium compounds by the edible medicinal basidiomycete Lentinula edodes and the accumulation of elemental selenium nanoparticles in its mycelium. J Microbiol 51:829–835CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Wagner LA (2002) Materials in the economy—materials flows, scarcity and the environment. US Geological Survey, Circular 1221Google Scholar
  56. Wu HY, Ting YP (2006) Metal extraction from municipal solid waste incinerator fly ash chemical leaching and fungal bioleaching. Enzym Microb Technol 38:839–847CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Xu T, Ting Y (2009) Fungal bioleaching of incineration fly ash: metal extraction and modeling growth kinetics. Enzym Microb Technol 44:323–328CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Xu Y, Li J, Tan Q, Peters A, Yang C (2018) Global status of recycling waste solar panels: a review. Waste Manag.
  59. Yi YK, Kim HS, Tran T, Hong SK, Kim MJ (2014) Recovering valuable metals from recycled photovoltaic modules. J Air Waste Manage Assoc 64:797–807CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Yoo K, Lee J, Lee K, Kim B, Kim M, Kim S, Pandey B (2012) Recovery of Sn, Ag and Cu from waste Pb-free solder using nitric acid leaching. Mater Trans 53:2175–2180CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Power Mechanical EngineeringNational Tsing Hua UniversityHsinchuTaiwan ROC

Personalised recommendations