Growing demand for silicon is not being met by growing supply. Widespread predictions of growth in the adoption of sustainable energy technologies have assumed that there are enough natural resources, processing capacity and infrastructure to meet demand.
These assumptions have overlooked structural supply shortages faced by many suppliers, whose ability to respond to rapid and sustained demand growth is constrained by access to high grade raw material, time consuming permitting processes, logistical challenges and access to energy for manufacturing. As a result, manufacturers of sustainable technologies across the U.S., European and Asian markets have prioritized sourcing responsibly produced inputs such as silicon metal.
U.S. Silicon metal production estimates remain below demand levels
Despite the scale of this potential opportunity, there have been no major new capacity additions in North America in the past seven years, even in the face of the substantial expected expansion of sustainable technologies requiring large quantities of silicon metal.
Silicon is an essential material in the production semiconductors (for integrated circuits)
According to the United States Department of Energy, 95% of solar modules manufactured today use silicon metal
CRU estimates demand for silicon metal to grow by 9.2% annually to 1.3 million tonnes in 2026
Electric vehicles and energy storage
Silicon metal is being extensively researched as an input into battery anodes for EV and grid storage technology. The effectiveness of composite silicon anodes was first reported in 2002 and since then numerous companies have progressed research to demonstrate that the inclusion of silicon metal into predominantly graphite-derived anodes significantly increases the energy density, range and rate of recharge of EVs. We believe these are critical features that are essential to the long-term prospects of EV adoption.
Tests conducted by Sila Nanotechnologies and Group 14 Technologies Corporation, two battery technology developers, have shown that the energy density of lithium-based EV batteries can be increased by an estimated 20 – 40% through the addition of silicon metal in their anodes. Tests conducted by Sicona Battery Technologies Pty Ltd and Enevate Corporation have shown the potential for materially higher rates of increase in energy density of up to a factor of five.
Electric car market year-over-year growth
Estimated energy density increase with silicon added to anodes