Easing concerns about pollution from manufacture of solar cells

Feb 25, 2008

In a finding that could help ease concerns about the potential environmental impact of manufacturing solar cells, scientists report that the manufacture of solar cells produces far fewer air pollutants than conventional fossil fuel technologies. Their report, the first comprehensive study on the pollutants produced during the manufacture of solar cells, is scheduled for the March 15 issue of the ACS' Environmental Science & Technology.

Solar energy has been touted for years as a safer, cleaner alternative to burning fossil fuels to meet rising energy demands.

However, environmentalists and others are increasingly concerned about the potential negative impact of solar cell (photovoltaic) technology. Manufacture of photovoltaic cells requires potentially toxic metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium and produces carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming.

In the new study, Vasilis M. Fthenakis and colleagues gathered air pollution emissions data from 13 solar cell manufacturers in Europe and the United States from 2004-2006. The solar cells include four major commercial types: multicrystalline silicon, monocrystalline silicon, ribbon silicon, and thin-film cadmium telluride.

The researchers found that producing electricity from solar cells reduces air pollutants by about 90 percent in comparison to using conventional fossil fuel technologies.

Source: ACS

Explore further: First large-scale carbon capture goes online in Canada

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Solar cell compound probed under pressure

Sep 25, 2014

Gallium arsenide, GaAs, a semiconductor composed of gallium and arsenic is well known to have physical properties that promise practical applications. In the form of nanowires and nanoparticles, it has particular ...

New solar cells serve free lunch

Sep 24, 2014

One of the most common complaints about solar power is solar panels are still too expensive to be worth the investment. Many researchers have responded by making solar cells, the tile-like components of solar ...

Soft design for a sustainable world

Sep 24, 2014

"Around the world at unprecedented rates, people are moving from the country to the city," says Sheila Kennedy, professor of the practice at MIT's Department of Architecture. "But this rapid urbanization is not a one-way ...

Recommended for you

Report IDs 'major weaknesses' at nuclear-arms lab

11 hours ago

One of the nation's premier nuclear weapons laboratories is being called out by the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Energy for "major weaknesses" in the way it packaged contaminated waste before shipping it to ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Doug_Huffman
not rated yet Feb 25, 2008
Ahh, there are pollutants other than in air. I would not expect to find Pb, Hg, Cd in air at all.

Dilution is the solution to pollution. Each of these is derived from a dilute natural source, return them whence they cam.
Valentiinro
not rated yet Feb 26, 2008
If people were especially concerned about this it probably wouldn't be too hard to develop capturing technologies for these pollutants anyway. Much like the carbon capture ideas for coal power plants.