Although solar cells are a great alternative to fossil fuels, the environmental impact of the solar cell manufacturing procedures has been cited. In a recent study, scientists from Ritsumeikan University in Japan discovered that toxic cadmium is used in the production process to develop cost-effective, efficient, and eco-friendly solar cells.
Climate change, one of the major global concerns today, has made clear that fossil fuels are harmful to our environment and are not sustainable. However, researchers have also developed solar cells that are flexible, lightweight, low-cost, and flexible. However, the construction process itself has posed a serious environmental danger: the use of toxic materials and the generation of industrial waste.
Copper indium gallium selenide (CIGSe) is a thin-film solar cell that is about 100 times thinner, cheaper to make, and is easier to install on rooftops and vehicles. Besides, CIGSe absorbs light more strongly and can be separated into thinner films. This is why finding alternatives, non-toxic materials are crucial for large-scale production and installation of CIGSe panels.
Using cadmium from solar cells, a research team led by them developed a strategy in which the traditional cadmium sulfide buffer layer was oxidized with an air-annealing process. The study was published on March 26, 2022, in the journal Solar RRL.
After 6 hours of oxidation at 130C, the researchers decided to re-assemble the CIGSSe layer into an air-annealing system. This is then followed by an air-annealing process. Eventually, the CIGSSe solar cell was transformed with a maximum energy conversion rate of 16.7%.
According to Prof. Minemoto, the CIGSSe surface was oxidized through an improved air-annealing process.
The combined efficiency of conventional solar cells (which typically exceed 20%) is still low, but the developed technique attempts to remove cadmium, thus making the solar cells eco-friendly. By eliminating this step, we have created a completely dry manufacturing process that reduces waste.
Solar panels must be more efficient, economical, and environmentally friendly in order to make solar panels a viable source of clean energy. This method, developed in our study, can be expanded to large-scale manufacturing applications, which is what we need to make solar cells a clean energy resource not only in Japan, but across the world. Prof.
We hope that the research vision will become a reality in the near future!