Flexibility and applicability are what thin-film solar cells promise. However, thin-film solar cells are constituted by cadmium chloride, a toxic material. Scientists from University of Liverpool now are developing new solar cells made by magnesium chloride which is innocuous – and is used in the production of tofu.
|photo credit: OregonDOT via photopin cc
An article on Gizmodo.com says that Jon Major, a physicist at University of Liverpool, and his colleagues set out to test other types of salts to find if there is any material that can replace cadmium chloride. Although cadmium chloride is a good solution in terms of high solar cells efficiency, its production process is toxic, potentially carcinogenic, and expensive. Fortunately, Major and his team found magnesium chloride, a compound which is used to coagulate soy milk into tofu, to be an ingredient in bath salts.
Magnesium chloride can be about equally effective comparing to cadmium chloride. It is cheaper, and it requires no elaborate environmental protection or safety gear. It can also be applied by simple sprayers instead of sputter deposition equipment for cadmium chloride.
Gizmodo notes, “Of course, as folks in the solar panels industry point out, simply finding a cheaper ingredient doesn’t necessarily make for a cheaper final product” because it takes precise expertise to produce solar panels. The new toxic-free material inspired by tofu, nonetheless, reveals a possible and innovative start-up for the future of solar panels.