Solar photovoltaic technology is being revamped daily with new materials and techniques that make harvesting energy from the sun cheaper and more efficient than ever. A research team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, led by Angela M. Belcher and Paul T. Hammond, has recently developed solar cells made out of organolead halid perovskite that can convert sunlight at a 19.3% efficiency rate, making this material competitive with conventional silicon cells.
So what’s so special about these new cells?
Organolead halid perovskite cells require lead, a potent neurotoxin that can reach human populations when mined from raw ore, an energy intensive extraction process which releases toxic vapor and dust into the environment. Here’s the innovative idea: To avoid mining virgin lead to manufacture these solar cells, the MIT research team has proposed recycling the lead found in old, discarded car batteries. With over 1 billion cars on the road today, lead batteries provide a large, untapped resource for perovskite panel production.