Tofu ingredient could revolutionise solar panel manufacture

Jun 26, 2014
Dr Jon Major demonstrates the new simple method of applying magnesium chloride. Credit: University of Liverpool

(Phys.org) —The chemical used to make tofu and bath salts could also replace a highly toxic and expensive substance used to make solar cells, a University study published in the journal Nature has revealed.

Cadmium chloride is currently a key ingredient in used in millions of around the world. This soluble compound is highly toxic and expensive to produce, requiring elaborate safety measures to protect workers during manufacture and then specialist disposal when panels are no longer needed.

Now, a University of Liverpool researcher has found that it can be replaced with magnesium chloride, which is extracted from seawater and is already used in products such as tofu, and for de-icing roads.

Safe and at a fraction of the cost – $0.001 per gram compared to $0.3 – it has also been shown in the study to be as effective as the expensive and toxic alternative.

Physicist, Dr Jon Major from the University's Stephenson Institute for Renewable Energy carried out the research. He said: "If is going to compete with fossil fuels, then the cost has to come down. Great strides have already been made, but the findings in this paper have the potential to reduce costs further."

The cheapest being manufactured today are based on a thin film of insoluble (CdTe). Alone, these cells convert less than two percent of sunlight into energy. By applying cadmium chloride to them, this efficiency increases to over 15 percent.

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Solar simulator measuring a cell’s efficiency. Credit: University of Liverpool

Liverpool research, however, has shown that magnesium chloride can achieve the same boost to efficiency.

Dr Major said: "We have to apply cadmium chloride in a fume cupboard in the lab, but we created solar cells using the new method on a bench with a spray gun bought from a model shop.

"Cadmium chloride is toxic, and expensive and we no longer need to use it. Replacing it with a naturally occurring substance could save the industry a vast amount of money and reduce the overall cost for generating power from solar."

Explore further: Atomic switcheroo explains origins of thin-film solar cell mystery

More information: A low cost non-toxic MgCl2 post-growth activation step for CdTe solar cells, Nature, 2014: www.nature.com/nature/journal/… ull/nature13435.html

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strangedays
4 / 5 (4) Jun 26, 2014
Companies like Siva Power are already predicting 40 cents (U.S) a watt panels in the very near future - http://cleantechn...company/ The cost just keeps on dropping.
Straw_Cat
3.7 / 5 (3) Jun 28, 2014
One dealer here in B.C. was selling bulk solar panels for $0.69/ watt a year ago, but the price has gone up a bit with the drop in the $Can.
However, not many customers need an entire container load of panels. Installers, maybe.

Computer programs predict the un-subsidized cost of solar panels will drop below energy from non-renewable sources as early as the spring of 2015, by the fall at latest.

The problem on the horizon is to have enough boots on the roof, i.e., trained and ~certified~ installers.
Straw_Cat
3 / 5 (1) Jun 28, 2014
One dealer here in B.C. was selling bulk solar panels for $0.69/ watt a year ago, but the price has gone up a bit with the drop in the $Can.
However, not many customers need an entire container load of panels. Installers, maybe.

Computer programs predict the un-subsidized cost of solar panels will drop below energy from non-renewable sources as early as the spring of 2015, by the fall at latest.

The problem on the horizon is to have enough boots on the roof, i.e., trained and ~certified~ installers.
casual
5 / 5 (2) Jul 01, 2014
Companies like Siva Power are already predicting 40 cents (U.S) a watt panels in the very near future - http://cleantechn...company/ The cost just keeps on dropping.


yeah, but this cell with tofu non-toxic ingredient is – $0.001 per gram compared to $0.4 for your solar cell which is composed of highly toxic and expensive cadmium chloride as it's descirbed on web site of manufacturer you just put here.

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