News / Science & Technology

New Solar Cell Minimizes Environmental Risks in Manufacturing Process

FILE - The sun's rays in Seville, Spain.FILE - The sun's rays in Seville, Spain.
x
FILE - The sun's rays in Seville, Spain.
FILE - The sun's rays in Seville, Spain.
Rosanne Skirble

Scientists in England report the development of a new solar cell that minimizes environmental risks in the manufacturing process by using an element used in bath salts.

Many of the solar panels you see on roof tops use special materials called semiconductors such as silicon to generate electricity. However, silicon is not especially good at absorbing sunlight, says Jon Major, physics professor at the University of Liverpool in England.

“To absorb a useful amount of sunlight with silicon we would need to use around 200 micrometers of material." Major said. "For absorbers such as cadmium telluride, we need to use only 1 percent of the same material.”    

Which is why cadmium telluride is now firmly established as the market standard for making the next generation of solar cells.  It results in more flexible panels and dramatically outperforms silicon, with one major drawback.

New Solar Cell Minimizes Environmental Risks in Manufacturing Process
New Solar Cell Minimizes Environmental Risks in Manufacturing Processi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

“The problem is cadmium telluride itself is a highly toxic compound," Major said. "It’s been linked to genetic defect, and if it gets into the water supply, it can poison fish for generations.”

That’s why Major and his colleagues started looking for alternatives to cadmium chloride, the crystalline compound used in the solar cell manufacturing process. As they report in Nature, they found that magnesium chloride is an efficient, low cost and harmless substitute.

University of Liverpool physics professor Jon Major has demonstrated a simple method of applying magnesium chloride in solar cell manufacturing. (University of Liverpool)University of Liverpool physics professor Jon Major has demonstrated a simple method of applying magnesium chloride in solar cell manufacturing. (University of Liverpool)
x
University of Liverpool physics professor Jon Major has demonstrated a simple method of applying magnesium chloride in solar cell manufacturing. (University of Liverpool)
University of Liverpool physics professor Jon Major has demonstrated a simple method of applying magnesium chloride in solar cell manufacturing. (University of Liverpool)

“It is simply recovered from sea water and it is currently used in a number of applications such as salt roads in icy conditions," Major said. "You can buy it as a health supplement or mineral bath soak.  It’s also used as coagulate for the production of tofu.”
 
Major has filed a patent on the manufacturing process using magnesium chloride, but says it will take time for the industry to adopt it.

“The only reason we can really say why no one has these is because cadmium chloride works really well, and if it isn’t broke, then no one has bothered to fix it," he said. "So, I mean for myself, I’ve been working with cadmium telluride solar cells for about 10 years now and cadmium chloride has always been viewed as the process. That’s the one you use.  That’s how you make solar cells and no one has really varied from that.”

Major will continue to refine the process for its potential in the solar industry. 

“The work is a good example of the important role academic research can play in industrially established technologies,” he said.

 

You May Like

Islamic State Survivor: A Yazidi Girl's Tale

Sarah Said Haydar, captured a year ago while fleeing Islamic State onslaught in northern Iraq, was so traumatized by militants, she sought to end her own life More

EU, US Applaud Kosovo Law on Special Court

Joint statement says lawmakers' decision to address allegations of war crimes 'demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law and to honor international agreements' More

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Le Van Hai from: Deajeon City, Korea
July 09, 2014 6:14 AM
I am a researcher. I'm interested in organic solar cell. it is great that, this could be a great way to applying in organic solar cell.
Thank you for your great finding.

by: Dr Jamal kanbarieh from: Dubai -UAE
July 02, 2014 2:53 AM
This News will give the solar cell manufacturing an historical push , and special greeting to Dr Major and his team , we have to follow the more economical production , and environmental new clean production .

by: Virginia Tamuts from: Mays Landing, NJ
June 27, 2014 8:23 AM
This is incredible news! Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best. I'd really like to see this go forward.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Tradei
X
Robert Carmichael
August 04, 2015 3:07 PM
Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Trade

Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Growing Number of E. Jerusalem Palestinians Seek Israeli Citizenship

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have long rejected the option of full Israeli citizenship, seeing it as a betrayal to their political cause - the formation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But as that dream remains elusive, more and more Palestinians are applying for Israeli citizenship. Zlatica Hoke reports the decision is hard for many Palestinians who say they have to be pragmatic about it.
Video

Video With No Money, More Students, African Universities Struggle

Academics from around the African continent converged in Johannesburg last week for the African Universities Summit, a chance to tackle some of the major issues facing higher education in Africa today. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Still Mired In Controversy

Voter ID laws have sparked controversy across the US. More than 30 states enacted laws requiring citizens to show identification before they vote. Against fierce opposition, the state of Wisconsin recently enacted one the most restrictive voter ID laws in country. As Jeff Swicord reports, no one can predict its impact as the 2016 election nears.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Hailed as Highly Effective

At last, there's a way to end the suffering from the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa for more than a year. Researchers say the vaccine is so effective, there may never be a major outbreak of Ebola again. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs