Many 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.