High purity argon (better than 99.999%) is used as a shield gas in the production of silicon ingots, to be fabricated into wafers, for solar cells and micro-electronic devices. Argon is used to control the impurity levels present during the manufacturing process to an acceptable level.
In response to rising costs, the trend in the solar industry has been to reduce the argon purge flows to a minimum, typically about 30slm; however, this cost reduction comes at the expense of wafer purity which can result in lower performance solar cells.
Ultra-High purity wafers for use in micro-electronic applications typically utilize two to three times as much argon as for the solar PV application, so rising argon costs are an even more critical issue in this sector.
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