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Iron Pyrite Used for Cheaper Solar Panels

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cheap-materials-for-solar-pannels-iron-pyriteMany of today’s solar panels use silicon for transforming solar energy into electrical energy. But this is not only quite expensive, but also can be in shortage.

The study the LBNL (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)  has performed and recently published tells us that there are many cheaper and abundant alternatives to silicon. One of them is iron pyrite, a quite common resource.

The researchers could find 23 alternative semiconductors, 12 of them are more easily to find than silicon. Iron pyrite is considered the best solution among those 12. A new, easy to find and cheaper material is a relief for the solar producers as they meet shortages in silicon delivery.

The researchers say: “We started looking at new materials because people often assume solar will be the dominant  energy source of the future”. “But current solar technology may not get us there in a time frame that is meaningful,  if at all. We must turn our attention back to basic science research if we are to solve the problem.”

As alternatives to silicon in solar panels, there already exist some new materials: cadmium telluride or copper indium gallium selenide, found in thin-film solar panels, but both of them are extremely limited resources.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. As you said, silicon is expensive to process and mass produce. Furthermore, it has become increasingly difficult to mine enough silicon to meet ever-growing consumer demand (I am talking about the period before the present economical crisis).

    This is why the scientists are looking for other materials to create solar panels.

    By having more information from you, our readers can have a better view of the subject, therefore I thank you for your input.

    We transmitted the results of the study LBNL recently performed, as we are not able to confirm or contradict their results. We all would have to wait to see how it will evolve.

  2. Florin, ol’ buddy, your writing engenders a less than positive impression in your readers when you fail to present the issues couched in proper language. Also, when you state that iron pyrite is ‘a quite common resource’, you fail to add that silicon (the primary constituent of all the sands on Earth) is at least equally common, and that availability has not served to make it inexpensive in photovoltaic applications.
    Considering all the recent hype, we might wonder why did not iron pyrite become a hit since its superiour bandgap properties have been known for over 20 years. Turns out, it has extremely low photovoltage compared to bandgap. Here are some conclusions from a year 2000 paper:
    http://www.esqsec.unibe.ch/%5Cpub%5Cpub_51.htm
    It is the purification and deposition processing that makes silicon an expensive material in solar, and it will be variations on the same processes that will do the same for possible pyrite solar applications, given that research indicates that there’s any great potential to even proceeding in that direction.

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