The disposal of decommissioned solar panels and other related components have become a widely discussed topic as more and more solar energy systems are installed. Although numerous studies and researches have already been devoted to the recycling of silicon solar panels, not much discussion has been made on the recycling of emerging solar materials like Perovskite. US scientists have recently urged developers to not neglect this specific type of material.
Perovskite solar cells are one of the most talked-about next generation solar technologies thanks to their relatively cheaper materials and easier processes, and they can be transformed into flexible or translucent solar modules from different backplanes using different configurations. However, the issues of their stability and weak lifespan have yet to be fully resolved. According to the findings of a research team at Cornell University, now is the perfect time for developers to start arranging for the proper way to dispose perovskite solar materials and work on their improvements.
So what can be done with perovskite solar panels when they reach the end of their life? According to the research team, the proper thing to do would be to recycle and reuse them, which can potentially lower their "already low" carbon footprint. Fengqi You, the Professor of Energy Systems Engineering at Cornell University, commented that scientists nowadays are generally only focused on the elevation of performance and on conversion efficiency and stability when designing solar cells, and they have a tendency to neglect the recycling mechanisms for such materials.
The past studies of the research team indicate that perovskite solar panels exceed silicon solar panels in terms of performance, and they consume less energy during the manufacturing process. The return on investment for these panels is also faster than that of silicon solar panels in the early stages. Hence, the research team believes that an establishment of a recycling mechanism for pervoskite solar panels will facilitate a more sustainable development for this particular technology; according to the research team’s thesis, the use of recycled pervoskite solar cells will result in “72.6% lower primary energy consumption and a 71.2% reduction in carbon footprint.” Xueyu Tian, the co-author of the thesis, commented that a reduction of energy consumption during the battery production stage will also diminish the energy payback time (EPBT).
As pointed out by the research team, an optimized renewable pervoskite cell architecture takes about a month of recycling time, and results in 13.4g of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) for each kWh of power. Without recycling, the recycling duration will increase to 70 days-13 months, while the emission of carbon dioxide would rise to 27.5-158.0g/kWh.
The current silicon solar panels takes 1.3-2.4 years to recycle, and emits 22.1-38.1g of CO2e during the early phase. Tian points out that the recycling of perovskite will enable it to outcompete all of its rivals in the future. In the long run, Tian is hopeful that the scientific community will not just focus on the recycling and disposal of discarded perovskite, but also research the ways in which their lifespans and stability can be extended. Improvements like these will help to accelerate their commercialization.
(Cover photo source: Cornell University)