Car batteries, not the fancy lithium-ion batteries in today’s electric vehicles, are usually of the lead-acid variety and if improperly disposed can leach lead. Solar panels still primarily of the silicon variety, are seeing a lot of advances. One of the most promising technologies are perovskite crystals, which are made out of organolead halide, which can be refined from, you guessed it—lead! New research from MIT shows that the lead from one automotive battery could be changed into enough solar panels to power about 30 homes.
Perovskite crystals are one of the newer technologies making waves in the solar industry. They’re cheap to produce and researchers have quickly ramped up their conversation efficiency. “It went from initial demonstrations to good efficiency in less than two years,” says Angela Belcher, the W.M. Keck Professor of Energy at MIT and a coauthor of the research which published in Energy and Environmental Science. The research was coauthored by Professor Paula Hammond, research scientist Jifa Qi, graduate students Po-Yen Chen and Matthew Klug and postdoc Xiangnan Dang. “Already, perovskite-based photovoltaic cells have achieved power-conversion efficiency of more than 19 percent, which is close to that of many commercial silicon-based solar cells,” Belcher said.
Producing perovskite solar cells is relatively simple compared to the steps involved in producing multi-crystalline or mono-crystalline silicon for solar power. “It has the advantage of being a low-temperature process, and the number of steps is reduced” compared with the manufacture of conventional solar cells, Belcher says. The technique is showed in a video, which can be viewed here: http://youtu.be/X3omqERE1AA.
“It is important that we consider the life cycles of the materials in large-scale energy systems,” Hammond said. “And here we believe the sheer simplicity of the approach bodes well for its commercial implementation.”
The method is cheap and could quickly be scaled up. Also, since it’s taking a potentially harmful metal, lead, without needing additional mining, it reduces that impact on the land as well. Now that the method is demonstrated other photovoltaics researchers can fine-tune the technology to help increase its efficiency, according to Belcher.Tweet