Scientists develop cleaner production of solar cells

26 Jun 2014

A team of British scientists have claimed they have developed a much cleaner and cost-efficient method of producing solar cells by using the same material used in bath salts.

Traditionally, the development of some solar cells is a rather dangerous process for humans and manufacturers are required to wear gas masks and protective suits around the materials, according to the BBC.

About 90pc of solar cells are made from silicon, however, about 7pc are made from a material known as cadmium telluride which, while thinner than silicon, contains the harmful chemicals and is rather expensive.

Now however, Prof Ken Durose of Liverpool University and his team have found that magnesium chloride, commonly found in bath salts, can be used in the construction of solar cells at less risk and cost, because the material is extracted from sea water.

However, the team faces a challenge in convincing producers it makes financial sense to invest in the technology. At current levels, a magnesium chloride-produced cell is believed to produce lower levels of electricity than its more harmful counterpart.

For now, the team is hoping the cheaper production cost of their cells will be the bigger draw for manufacturers. Yet, Dr Nigel Mason of PV Consulting told the BBC the scientists are being rather optimistic of their chances of breaking the cadium telluride market.

“The development is great for the environmental management and safety of the production process but the cost of cadmium chloride material and dealing with its safe disposal is a relatively small fraction of production cost” Mason said.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic