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Making Solar Panels Less Expensive with Tofu Ingredient

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 01:53PM

While a roof covered with solar panels can look very clean and harmless, manufacturing those panels can be anything but. Some of the materials used to create solar panels can be highly toxic and make special safety and disposal methods necessities. Researchers at the University of Liverpool however, have discovered a potential replacement for one of these toxic chemicals, and it is actually found in tofu, bath salts, and is used for de-icing roads.

Magnesium chloride is found in seawater and used in many products already, demonstrating its safety. At $0.001 per gram, it is also relatively cheap, especially compared to cadmium chloride at $0.3 per gram. The reason the latter chemical is used in solar panels is to improve the efficiency of some of the cheapest solar cells made today. Thin films of cadmium telluride can be cheaply turned into solar cells that can convert about 2% of light into electricity, but by applying cadmium chloride, the efficiency can surpass 15%. As it turns out though, magnesium chloride can have the same affect, at a fraction of the cost and much more safely.

To test magnesium chloride, the researchers applied it to solar cells at a bench using a spray gun from a model shop. Applying cadmium chloride requires the use of a fume cupboard to prevent exposure, for comparison.

Source: University of Liverpool

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