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Lead-absorbing film soaks up dangerous leaks from perovskite solar cells

Lead-absorbing film soaks up d...
A new lead-absorbing film sequesters 99.99 percent of leaks from perovskite solar cells
A new lead-absorbing film sequesters 99.99 percent of leaks from perovskite solar cells
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Northern Illinois University researchers Tao Xu and student Xun Li have developed a novel lead-absorbing film for perovskite solar cells
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Northern Illinois University researchers Tao Xu and student Xun Li have developed a novel lead-absorbing film for perovskite solar cells
Researchers say their novel lead-absorbing film can be applied to perovskite solar cells as part of a standard fabrication process
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Researchers say their novel lead-absorbing film can be applied to perovskite solar cells as part of a standard fabrication process
A new lead-absorbing film sequesters 99.99 percent of leaks from perovskite solar cells
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A new lead-absorbing film sequesters 99.99 percent of leaks from perovskite solar cells
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For all the promise they are showing in converting sunlight into electricity at ever-improving efficiencies, perovskite solar cells still have some flaws that must be addressed for them to enter widespread use. Among them is the issue of toxic lead contained in the cells and the danger of it seeping out when they're damaged, but a newly-developed film likened to Scotch tape could soak up such leaks.

The research was carried out by scientists at Northern Illinois University (NIU) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and is geared toward making perovskite solar cells commercially viable. While their efficiency now rivals traditional silicon solar cells, the fact they contain lead means they carry a risk of toxicity to the environment and human health if the panel is damaged and the element leaks out.

Swapping out the lead for a substitute is one way scientists may be able to solve this problem, with one interesting example from 2018 using titanium instead. However, the solution proposed by the authors of this new study centers on the idea of leaving the lead in place but capturing it before it can enter the soil or food chain if, for example, the panel suffers damage.

The transparent tape consists of a solar ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) film and pre-laminated layer of lead-absorbing material, and can be applied to both sides of perovskite solar cells to encapsulate them as part of a standard fabrication process.

Researchers say their novel lead-absorbing film can be applied to perovskite solar cells as part of a standard fabrication process
Researchers say their novel lead-absorbing film can be applied to perovskite solar cells as part of a standard fabrication process

Testing the performance of the film involved subjecting the wrapped cells to outdoor, rooftop conditions for three months, damaging them with razor blades and hammers and then submerging them in water for a week. These tests were designed to see how the cells could stand up to severe weather conditions, with the scientists reporting the film to be capable of capturing 99.9 percent of the leaked lead.

“Our practical approach mitigates the potential lead-leakage to a level safer than the standard for drinking water,” says NIU Chemistry Professor Tao Xu, who co-led the research. “We can easily apply our lead-absorbing materials to off-the-shelf films currently used to encapsulate silicon-based solar cells at the end of their production, so existing fabrication processes for PSCs would not be disrupted. At the end of perovskite solar cell production, the films would be laminated to the solar cell.”

The research was published in the journal Nature Sustainability

Source: North Illinois University via EurekAlert

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Karmudjun
Thanks for the article Nick. This has truly been one of the complaints against perovskite solar panels.

This sounds like a band-aid rather than a fix. Disposal of a ethylene vinyl acetate and a laminated layer of "lead-absorbing material" does not sound any better than disposal of an old lead infused perovskite solar panel. If it has lead in it, exposure to lead can occur in manufacturing. Then any leakage or breaking of the panel can result in lead exposure. And then obsolescence means the weathered panels must be disposed of somehow - carefully - with lead present.

How is that a fix? How long before that lead absorbing layer in the full sunlight and heat of application begins to show age and move to sharing the lead instead of absorbing it? Are all dangers of lead removed before disposal of the panel BY THIS LAYER? No, this is not a fix, this is a "we can keep making the panels just as toxic as today - but we promise it won't hurt you if they break or leak for a known period of time....we promise!