We keep discovering extraordinary untapped potential underfoot in common things. Who knew that the sand around us has hidden smart phones — and glass, and glasses, and beach resorts — in plain sight all this time? God knew, and we entrepreneurs are privileged to glimpse His wonder, and to think His thoughts after Him.
Our Galectin Therapeutics has found what we hope will be life-changing cures in simple sugar. What if tin could do the same for solar power and energy? — RDM
Is Common Tin the Next Solar-Power Breakthrough?
by Patrick Cox
May 17, 2014
Northwestern University researchers, writing in the journal Nature Photonics, reveal that by replacing lead perovskite with tin perovskite in solar cells, similar power-conversion efficiency could be achieved without the negative environmental impact of lead.
Perovskite, as you know, is a relatively recent material to be applied to solar power applications. It’s named for Russian mineralogist Lev Perovski, and was first identified in the Ural Mountains of Russia in 1839.
Tin and lead, while in relative proximity on the periodic table, do differ in important ways. Lead, for example, is toxic. Poisoning affects the human nervous system and nearly every organ. Tin, on the other hand, which is nearly as malleable as lead, has a fraction of the toxicity concerns and can, when combined with perovskite, absorb most of the visible light spectrum.
The Northwestern University team used the tin and perovskite material to create a five-layer “sandwich” topped with electrically conducting glass. In total, the five layers produce a solar-cell device approximately two microns thick, which thus far in testing has achieved a power conversion efficiency of 5.73%.
While this efficiency is nowhere close to lead perovskite cells that convert at an efficiency of 15% or more, the substituting of lead for tin alone is a development certain to capture the attention of other researchers looking for ways to make solar-power cells truly “clean” and to harness the relatively simple chemistry involved in improving this five-layer solar breakthrough.
As you’ve seen time and again in recent weeks in this space, solar technology is a field packed with innovation and improvements, much of it coming from nanotechnology that until recently was merely theoretical.
Solar-power advances under way are a prime example of technological “convergence”—one industry or advance impacting and improving another—like mineral studies in perovskite, for example, which has only been used in solar-power applications in the past decade.