Tek companies are based on this Norwegian specialty. Now production can be revolutionized.

Tek companies are based on this Norwegian specialty.  Now production can be revolutionized.

The gadget you are reading this on depends on the silicone element. The problem is that it takes significant climate emissions to get this energy. Now a Norwegian industrial giant has cracked the code to make it emissions-free.

At Elkum in Salten, coal and quartz are mixed to purify silicon.  Now they will recycle carbon and make production emission-free.

In total, silicon producer Elkem produces more than 1 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. This represents more than two percent of Norway's total emissions.

But the product they make is described as essential in the modern world. Silicon is called silicon in English, and the reason for the name “Silicon Valley” is because silicon is a very important raw material when making computers.

It also has a wide range of other uses.

Silicon production produces large amounts of greenhouse gases. Now Elkem has developed a new production line, which means it can reduce its emissions to zero. The country is putting 31 million on the table to ensure further technological development.

The climate minister refers to the results as “groundbreaking”.

Good chemistry

quartz mineral (Read: stone) which is very common in nature. It's often easy to recognize, too. A white, light stone, sometimes almost translucent.

This is what quartz looks like.

Quartz is an oxide filled with silicon, which is the raw material used by Elchem.

That something is an oxide or oxidized simply means that oxygen has been mixed with it. Rust is perhaps the most famous example. As many old cars can attest, when something rusts, it no longer has the same properties it once did.

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Therefore, Elcom's mission is to remove oxygen from the quartz so that only silicon remains.

This is what it looks like when silicone is dried at the Elkem factory in Salten:

Today, they use coal in a blast furnace to achieve this. This is because coal contains carbon. Carbon (C) loves oxygen (O). Given the chance, C and O would remain together almost forever in a mixture called carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas CO₂.

In today's factories, Elkem releases carbon dioxide extensively through factory pipes, but now they have to Recycling Carbon.

– Good investment

Climate and Environment Minister Andreas Bjelland Eriksen (AFP) says the industry has, and must have, big ambitions to reduce emissions in the coming years.

– Previously, industry could make small improvements and achieve significant emissions reductions. If we are to reduce emissions now, comprehensive reform is necessary. Bjelland Eriksen says the Elchem ​​project is very cool because it is a pioneering way of thinking about silicon production.

Andreas Byland Eriksen

Minister of Climate and Environment.

He believes the Norwegian industry also risks being overwhelmed by the competition if it does not make the necessary promises now. Both to reduce emissions and preserve jobs.

We must have silicon production, as it is necessary for many things. When we support new technology, the goal is to reduce risk so that companies can invest. “It's a relatively large amount of money for something that is currently considered an immature technology, but I think it's a good investment for Norwegian society nonetheless,” Bjøland Eriksen says.

But how will you manage it?

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Other countries have reduced emissions by up to 70 percent. Elkem emits the same amount as in 2004.

More challenges

Elkem's CTO, Håvard Moe, explains that they will now build a medium-sized pilot. The small factory will be built in Kristiansand, and the goal is to produce emission-free silicon within 2026. They have already managed to achieve this in the laboratory.

Moreover, if everything goes as it should, the goal is to build industrial-scale factories with normal production from 2035.

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Silicone is ready for sale.

There are many challenges on the way to full Elkem production.

– A lot of hydrogen is needed to achieve emissions-free production of silicon. Hydrogen production consumes a lot of energy. If we wanted to produce it ourselves, Elkem would double the electricity consumption.

He also says there is not yet a market for zero-emission silicon, and that there are risks associated with developing the technology itself.

– When it comes to expanding to an industrial scale, it is a matter of capital: because there are significant investments here. But this is not a problem unique to Elkem, but applies to the entire green transition in Europe, Mo says.

Elkem believes that silicon could become completely emissions-free in the future.

Elkem says they are still thinking about carbon capture and storage. This is because it may be easier to use in existing factories.

Dalila Awolowo

Dalila Awolowo

"Explorer. Unapologetic entrepreneur. Alcohol fanatic. Certified writer. Wannabe tv evangelist. Twitter fanatic. Student. Web scholar. Travel buff."

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