February 23, 2009
Fool's gold promises cheaper
Come up with a way to make solar cells
from iron pyrite -- fool's gold -- and you could have a cheap, abundant
Scientists studied the extraction costs and abundance of 23
semiconductor compounds capable of converting light to electricity
and the amount of electricity photovoltaic modules made from the compounds
would generate. They found that three compounds -- iron pyrite, zinc
phosphide and amorphous silicon -- have lower extraction costs and
greater generation potential than crystalline silicon.
Iron pyrite is particularly abundant and inexpensive to extract.
This gives it the greatest potential of the 23 compounds for meeting
the world's electricity needs despite being less efficient than crystalline
silicon at converting light to electricity.
In general, the study found that researchers should work on
developing solar cells from low-cost, abundant materials like fool's
gold, and using semiconductor nanoparticles to reduce the amounts
of materials used, as well as developing more efficient cells.
Availability Expands the Opportunity for Large-Scale Photovoltaics
Environmental Science & Technology, published online February
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