Photo via Shutterstock
Solar panels provide one of the cleanest forms of green energy by converting sunlight into electricity, but the photovoltaic panels we use are made with toxic elements including cadmium and lead elements. Researchers from Australia and Japan are now working together to advance the next generation of non-toxic solar panels. The new RMIT University-led research collaboration is working to develop cheaper and less toxic solar cells using nanotechnology.
In a mission to create non-toxic, printable nanocrystals the team of researchers from RMIT, CSIRO, and the Japan Science and Technology Agency have been trying to incorporate elements like copper and antimony – two elements that have low toxicity and are abundant according to the researchers. In the course of the research, the team discovered it could synthesize tetrahedrite and famatinite copper antimony sulphide into nanocrystals. The resulting nanocrystals have a brown-blackish color that has a strong absorptions rate of visible and near-infrared light.
“The focus of photovoltaic industries has been to reduce material and production costs for photovoltaic panels,” Professor Yasuhiro Tachibana, from RMIT’s School of Aerospace, said in a statement. “Research into next generation solar cells … concentrates on developing novel low cost and low toxicity colloidal nanomaterials in order to meet industry requirements.”
Best of all, these new lower toxicity semiconductor nanocrystal inks can be cheaply printed into thin nanocrystal films. And the team has already confirmed the nanocrystalline film generates electricity under light, making it suitable as a future light absorber in solar cells.