"Fools Gold" Preparation of Cheap and Efficient Solar Cells

The appearance of pyrite is like gold, so it is also called "Fool's Gold". This kind of metal has been deceived from ancient Roman times and many people have been deceived. But now researchers have discovered that this kind of "fools" many people. The metal also has a very real purpose - to prepare cheap and efficient solar cells.

Researchers at the University of Oregon recently successfully used pyrite to create a new compound that can absorb large amounts of solar energy and is expected to be used in solar cell manufacturing. Unlike traditional solar cell manufacturing materials, this pyrite compound is non-toxic, harmless, easy to obtain, and inexpensive. If it can achieve mass production, it will open up a new path for solar energy development. Researchers have published this result in the latest issue of Advanced Energy Materials.

Compared to other precious metals, pyrite itself is of little value, but in the past 25 years, scientists have always believed that the special advantages of this common metal must be in use. Perhaps it will no longer be appropriate to call it “Fools Gold” in the future.

“We have early discovered that pyrite can absorb solar energy very well, but it is inconsistent in practical applications.” Professor Kozler of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Oregon said: “After a long period of research, we have found that Being a special compound can give it a good performance, but there is still some work to be done to make these raw materials into solar cells, but the potential of this material is beyond doubt."

In the early stage of solar energy development, pyrite has attracted people's interest. Pyrite can absorb a large amount of solar energy and has abundant reserves. Compared with other competitive materials such as silicon, pyrite has obvious advantages, but its fatal drawback is that it cannot effectively convert solar energy into electricity.

Earlier scientists did not know why, but the latest research has solved this problem. Since the production of solar cells requires a lot of heat, pyrite will decompose and form new substances in the process, which will hinder the production of electricity.

On this basis, researchers at the University of Oregon began experimenting with new compounds made of pyrite, which preserves the characteristics of pyrite while ensuring that it does not decompose due to high temperatures. The researchers succeeded. One of them was iron sulfide.

“In terms of various types of elements extracted from nature, iron is probably the cheapest, followed by silicon, and sulfur is almost free,” Kozler said. “These compounds are stable, safe and do not decompose. At present, it seems that There seems to be nothing to stop it from becoming a new type of solar material."

This project has received strong support from the U.S. government. The U.S. Department of Energy has provided US$3 million in R&D funds. Researchers are continuing to experiment with the Colorado National Renewable Energy Laboratory that they are collaborating with, trying to find and produce more suitable new materials. "The advantage of this material is that it is abundant and inexpensive, and most importantly, it can produce high-efficiency solar cells, which meet all the conditions for large-scale application of solar energy." Kozler said.

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