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Dow Corning Adds Monosilane Gas to Rust Belt's Green Renaissance

Dow Corning is set to build monosilane gas plant, key to manufacturing thin film solar panels.

The trickle of green jobs into the Rust Belt has been rapidly swelling into torrent, and with headquarters in Michigan it was only a matter of time before Dow Corning joined the “green rush” to a more sustainable economy. The manufacturing giant has just announced that it will begin construction on a new facility to manufacture monosilane gas, which among other things is used to make thin film solar cells.  The plant will be constructed in Michigan’s Thomas Township.

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At a cost of $100 million, the new monosilane gas facility represents a full-throttle comment to solar power by Dow Corning.  The company’s headquarters in Midland, Michigan is also set to open a solar panel installation and solar education center.

Monosilane Gas and Thin Film Solar Panels

Silane is a derivative of metallugical grade silicon.  It is produced by exposing powdered silicon to hydrogen chloride, and then exposing the resulting compound to a metal halide such as aluminum chloride.  Monosilane gas can be used in a vapor-based process to deposit a thin layer of silicon on surfaces, making it a key ingredient in the manufacture of thin film solar panels as well as liquid crystal displays.

Dow Corning and the Solar Industry

Dow Corning’s new solar array will double as a test center for its new silicon encapsulation technology, and that’s just the latest in the company’s string of solar installations.  In addition to a solar array at its facility in Germany, Dow has already installed solar panels at its joint venture the Hemlock Semiconductor Group, which is adjacent to the site of the new monosilant gas plant in Michgan.  The Great Lakes Loons minor league baseball team is also proudly hosting a Dow Corning solar array at its home field, Dow Diamond in Midland, Michigan.

Solar Power and the New Green Rush

In all, Dow and Hemlock have recently announced more than $5 billion in investments in manufacturing ventures relating to solar industry materials.  As a lower-cost, more flexible alternative to conventional silicon solar technology, thin film solar is quickly gaining diverse fan base including solar roofing companies and electric utilities.  The potential revenues from thin film solar projects could hit $22 billion by 2015.  That’s good news for manufacturing states like Michigan, which are already beginning to reinvent themselves by turning the country’s thirst for solar power into new green jobs.

Image: Thin film solar array by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory at wikimediacommons.

 
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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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