MIT turns dirty old lead batteries into clean solar panels
MIT researchers are developing a system that could recycle old car batteries into long-lasting solar panels.
The system is based on recent developments in solar cell technology using a compound called perovskite — a crystalline substance that the US engineers organisation IEEE describes as the "new black" in solar research.
"All the cool solar-cell scientists are working on perovskite photovoltaics," it says. And well they might. Perovskite-based photovoltaic cells have achieved power-conversion efficiency of more than 19% – the same sort of range of commercial silicon-based solar cells.
Until now the lead content in the most efficient perovskite materials has been seen as a disadvantage and scientists have been searching for alternatives.
But recycling lead from old batteries might be a game-changer that also helps us avoid a potential environmental disaster.
MIT says that advances in battery technology which are seeing a shift to new technology such as lithium-ion batteries could lead to 200 million lead-acid batteries "retired" to landfill in the coming years. If they can be recycled to produce clean energy it would be a win-win.
The new system makes perovskite photovoltaic film just half a micrometer thick, which means the lead from a single car battery could produce enough solar panels to provide power for 30 households.
It is described in a paper in the journal Energy and Environmental Science, co-authored by professors Angela M. Belcher and Paula T. Hammond, graduate student Po-Yen Chen, and three others.