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Modeling the Process of Mining Silicon

Andrea Vermeer, Alexis Durow, National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL)

The heart of this activity is a laboratory investigation that models the production of silicon. The activity is an investigation of silicon: the sources, uses, properties, importance in the fields of photovoltaics (solar cells/renewable energy) and integrated circuits industries, and, to a limited extent, environmental impact of silicon production.

Activity takes two class periods. Additional materials are needed.

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Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

Energy Literacy

Humans transfer and transform energy from the environment into forms useful for human endeavors.
Other materials addressing:
4.1 Humans transfer and transform energy.

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
Other materials addressing:
C) Collecting information.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:D) Technology
Other materials addressing:
D) Technology.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:E) Environmental Issues
Other materials addressing:
E) Environmental Issues.

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Teachers will need to scaffold lesson to successfully integrate learning about renewable energy with learning the chemistry content of the laboratory activity.
  • Some of the links provided in the activity are broken, but they are not critical in completing the activity and substitutions could be easily found (e.g. background of the Silicon Valley).
  • Teachers will need to provide focused instruction to relate activity back to solar cells and renewable energy.

About the Science

  • The activity uses a basic displacement-redox lab to produce copper from copper sulfate and aluminum, modeling the separation of of silicon dioxide to produce silicon.
  • Passed initial science review - expert science review pending.

About the Pedagogy

  • The activity is written specifically for a chemistry class but could be modified to meet learning the goals of other science courses.
  • Many assessment suggestions are provided.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Excellent step-by-step laboratory instructions are provided.

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