Bringing next generation germanium recycling solutions to your doorstep

Umicore has worked in close collaboration with AZUR SPACE to develop a tailor-made solution enabling the collection of high concentrates of germanium from very low concentration waste streams.  

For many years, Umicore’s Electro-Optic Materials business unit has been successful in offering germanium recycling services to its customer base. For waste streams with very low concentrations of germanium it is not economically viable for customers to transport such materials, as costs would exceed the recycling benefits.  However, through joint efforts, Umicore has been able to tackle the challenge by bringing Umicore’s technology to AZUR SPACE, producer of solar cells for space photovoltaics.    
Germanium is considered as a critical material due to its high importance to the economy and its associated supply chain risk. Recycling is therefore important in securing sustainable supply and, together with its customers, Umicore explores innovative solutions to develop and implement new recovery processes. Such innovations are based on our closed-loop business model and our drive towards a circular economy, providing a powerful differentiator in Umicore’s business strategy. 
In the case of AZUR SPACE, Umicore first presented its technology know-how on ultra-filtration, a system that separates germanium from unwanted materials. However, for it to function, the dimensions of the particles need to be defined: if the particles are too small the metal will not be recoverable, whereas if they are too big, resources will have been overspent. Through a complete pilot set-up at AZUR SPACE and with a series of tests, together we managed to co-engineer the ideal solution. After a successful pilot the technology will now be brought to AZUR SPACE installations.  
This joint collaboration has established a truly remarkable accomplishment. AZUR SPACE has been able to convert a waste stream into a revenue stream while Umicore has secured access to another sustainable source of germanium. By pushing the boundaries of germanium recycling every day, Umicore is turning sustainability into a competitive edge by maximizing sustainable supply.

“AZUR SPACE would like to thank Umicore for their competent support in enabling us to improve our recycling processes. We will continue our work to advance the recycling management within AZUR SPACE in cooperation with Umicore. Currently, the recycling plant for our Germanium waste stream is in the final stage of implementation.” 
A.V. Engineer at AZUR SPACE 


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