Science recently scored a simultaneous victory over pollution for both recycling and renewable energy! A team of researchers at MIT has come up with plan to turn old car batteries into durable solar panels. According to Phys.org, the system proposed by a group of MIT professors and published in the journal Energy and Environmental Science uses a fairly new solar cell technology that includes a compound called perovskite, which is nearly on par with traditional silicon-based cells but takes significantly less material to manufacture. The big problem to date with perovskite is the fact that lead – a source of toxic pollution that’s destructive to plants and animals – is a major ingredient in its manufacturing.
Enter the car battery, which contains plenty of lead – an opportunity the researchers saw to keep pollution out of landfills while using it to create technology that can produce clean energy. Adding to the good news about this research is the fact that the perovskite photovoltaic layer is made up of a thin film that’s just half a micrometer thick, meaning that a single car battery could produce enough solar panels to power 30 households according to the team’s analysis. And since the production of these solar cells is fairly simple, low-impact and cost effective, you have an environmental win-win-win situation.
As this technology continues to develop, the researchers also expect that the pervoskite cells could become even more efficient in a hurry. Study co-author and W.M. Keck Professor of Energy at MIT, Angela Belcher told the Washington Post that the efficiencies of the perovskite cells are currently at about 20 percent compared to 20 to 25 percent of the silicon cells, but the efficiency of the new cells has seen a rapid jump in efficiency from single digits in just a couple years – whereas silicon cells took a decade to reach peak efficiency.