Solar Cells to replace Toxic Cadmium Chloride: Promises Clean Energy

Breakthrough in solar panel manufacturing would provide cheap and clean energy

Energy Industry around the world is constantly evolving in terms of innovation to harness clean energy from renewal energy like sunlight, wind, tides rain and so on. Harnessing energy from sunlight using solar panels are being used worldwide and its production is also increasing. Unfortunately, during manufacturing these commonly used solar panels requires a highly toxic and water soluble chemical known as cadmium chloride. The cadmium chloride is known to cause genetic defects and disease related to heart, kidney and other severe health hazards. And if accidentally the chemical reaches to the water bodies, the toxic chemical causes havoc, wiping out fishes and other creatures for generations. 

The solar panels used for energy production uses semiconductor material like silicon. But according to physics professor Jon Major, at the University of Liverpool, England, silicon is not very apt material for absorbing sun rays. He explains, that to absorb a sufficient amount of sun rays with silicon would require the use of 200 micrometers of material. On the other hand, using cadmium telluride, only 1 percent of the material will be required and also makes solar panels flexible. But cadmium ion is not just toxic, it is also very expensive to produce. Therefore, adequate safety measures are followed while manufacturing solar panels, as well as while disposing unwanted panels. These together make production of solar energy very expensive. The solar cell manufacturer says that cadmium chloride is the second huge expense in their process.

Recently, researcher Major and his team discovered an alternative to replace the use of cadmium chloride, used so far in manufacturing of solar cells. The substitute can be extracted from sea water and is known as magnesium chloride. It is already being used for de-icing roads and in products like bath salts and tofu.

While comparing cadmium chloride to magnesium chloride, researchers claim that the newly discovered substitute is not just safer to use, it is also equally efficient and is less expensive – ($0.01 per gram instead of $0.3).

The low cost solar panels produced these days involves the use of a thin layer of cadmium telluride. These cells are capable of converting even less than 2 percent of sun rays into energy, but coating a thin film of cadmium chloride to them, the efficiency of solar panels exceeds over 15 percent. Researchers from Liverpool have found that the same efficiency can be achieved using magnesium chloride.

Dr Major while sharing his laboratory experience while making solar cells, said that to apply cadmium chloride they used fume cupboard as a protection, but they could freely apply magnesium chloride to solar cells placed on a bench, using a spray gun. He believes that with this breakthrough discovery the use of cadmium chloride can be completely banned along with eliminating potential health and environmental hazards associated with the use of cadmium chloride. Moreover, the magnesium chloride is commonly available in nature and therefore, it would save the solar energy industry form incurring extra expenditure, thus making the availability of cheaper power from the solar energy.

With such innovation, not just companies even individual houses can opt for using cheap solar technology for generating power, shifting the dependency from non renewal sources like gas to produce power.

Source: The Independent

About Neha Shukla

Hi, my name is Neha Shukla, I'm blogger and a freelance writer based in Noida, India. I am travel freak and enjoy good food and watching movies. And yes, I love animals too. You can find me on Google+ & LinkedIn