Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Back to high school

I usually give the mass media a pass on technology issues. If physicists are arguing about something, it can be very difficult for a reporter who doesn't cover the space to even understand the question, much less say anything intelligent about it.

I couldn't let this howler go, though. From the usually excellent LA Times: "Solar panels are usually made of silicon, and the world is running out of it."

Um, no. Silicon is the second most common element in the earth's crust, after oxygen. Subtract the organic matter from ordinary dirt and what's left is mostly silicate or silicon dioxide. We'll run out of, say, hydrocarbons long before we even scratch the global supply of silicon. While there are supply issues around the very pure silicon needed for solar panels and integrated circuits, they have to do with capital expansion lag in those markets, not the fundamental availability of the material.

1 comment:

Jim Montgomery said...

He wasn't talking specifically about this LA Times report (I don't think), but Deutsche Bank analyst Stephen 'Rourke said essentially the same thing at a SEMI panel this week, that there's no shortage of silicon, but there is for refinement capacity.