LG Chem says it’s developed a plastic material that can replace the metal in solar panel frames for the first time in Korea and will be targeting full-scale PV market penetration with it. This new ‘LUPOY EU5201’ is a PC/ASA flame retardant material that maintains the material shape even during temperature changes due to its low thermal expansion levels, using LG Chem’s proprietary technology and manufacturing method. PC/ASA: Engineering plastic with enhanced physical properties made by mixing ASA (Acrylonitrile Styrene Acrylate) resins with polycarbonate as a base.
Details: The LUPOY EU5201 supplements the mechanical properties of general plastics by adding glass fiber to polycarbonate compounds. It has the same level of durability as existing aluminum, but is half the weight and is price competitive, says LG Chem. Also, its dimensional stability maintains its shape even in temperature changes, so it is not easily deteriorated or deformed by the external environment. The chemical decomposition caused by ultraviolet rays exposure has been reduced, which has significantly improved the lifespan of the product compared to general plastics, and the color remains the same even after long-term exposure to ultraviolet rays.
Potential impact: Solar panel frames protect and support the panel from external impact. Heat resistance and strong durability against corrosion are required as the materials are exposed outside for a long time, such as on exterior walls or the roof where there is direct sunlight. Solar panel frames account for about 10% of solar panels, and are mainly made of aluminum alloy. If aluminum is replaced with LG Chem’s new engineering plastic material, the weight of the solar panel is expected to decrease dramatically and material cost can also be reduced. This can bring increased convenience during transportation and installation.
Sustainability? LG Chem has PCR PC (Post-Consumer Recycled Polycarbonate) development technology that recycles plastics used by general consumers, so the company says it can also produce eco-friendly low-carbon products using high-content PCR raw materials at the request of customers. The company also plans to review ways to collect the solar panel frame that will be discarded in the future and reproduce them into PCR PC.
Outlook: LG Chem has secured mass production capability during the first half of this year and started selling products in full-scale in the third quarter. Starting with the supply for solar panel frames, the company plans to expand the application of materials to interior and exterior materials of automobiles in the future.
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