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Published on August 22nd, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan


Using Lead From Lead-Acid Batteries In Perovskite Solar Cells

August 22nd, 2014 by  

Perovskite solar cells have been on the radar of many cleantech enthusiasts these days. Of course, they are not yet competitive with commercial solar cells, but they seem to have promise and many good qualities. One quality with lead-based perovskite solar cells that isn’t so hot is that raw lead ore production is pretty nasty — bad for human health and the environment.

Lead-acid batteries are one of the most heavily recycled products around (thankfully). 90% of the lead from old batteries is recycled for use in new batteries. However, the lead-acid battery market is under threat from lithium-ion batteries and the lead from old batteries may not be in as great of demand down the line.

Putting 1 + 1 together, lead from old lead-acid batteries could potentially be used in perovskite solar cells. An MIT team has gotten behind this idea for the production of organolead halide perovskite solar cells. Ut has also described a system for doing so in the journal Energy and Environmental Science.


Perovskite Solar Cell Potential

A CleanTechnica reader and frequent commenter, James Wimberly, recently wrote up a great summary article on perovskite solar cells and a recent advancement in their development, so I would recommend reading that. Here’s a good summary line on the perovskite solar cell from Angela M. Belcher, W.M. Keck Professor of Energy at MIT and one of the paper co-authors, as well: “It went from initial demonstrations to good efficiency in less than two years.”

Specifically, perovskite solar cells have reached an efficiency of over 19% in the lab, close to what commercial solar cells get (but still a ways off from the lab records for several other types of PV cells).

MIT notes that the lead from one old lead-acid car battery would be enough for solar panels that could power 30 average households.

h/t Green Car Congress

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • Hans

    I have been following renewable energy news for over a decade now. Every few months there is a solar cell “break through”. The press release by the research group is echoed around the internet, and after a while the news fades away. In real life the solar cell market is still dominated by the good old (poly-)crystalline Silicium solar cells, that keep getting improved by boring old small step-by-step improvements.

    I propose an article series: “Whatever happened to ….”: Look into your CT archives for articles presenting some new technology that was never heard of afterwards, and try to find out what happened to it.

  • There’s so much lead above ground, not just from batteries, but from CRTs, old paint remediation, old pipes, etc that mining wouldn’t be all that necessary. Mining, milling and productions of primary lead could easily be minimized. Just lead from lead based paint abatement alone could possibly supply the needs (just a guess). Here’s an inventory:

    This report is already out of date being published in 2007. This was before US and much of the world switched to flat screen monitors and TVs big time. That was probably 2009 and later. The average CRT had something like 5 pounds of lead.

    Metals health risk, among other things, is about transport from where it sits and who may be exposed. Lead would probably be stable and fixed. PV panels are tight. It’s just really an issue of proper manufacturing, encapsulation (chemical matrix), containment (sealed from the environment) and proper waste management. This Perovskite as an alternative PV metal is really cool stuff.

  • Zachary,

    This is a terrible idea. We are going to create an environmental disaster. Who will recycle terawatts of solar panels made with lead and other toxic metals in them? These devices will sit in a desert and crumble, spreading neuro-toxic sand and dust unless we devote a huge percentage of our economy to doing nothing but reprocessing photovoltaics.

    Your wind and solar solutions are not sustainable. Nuclear energy is the original “green” energy with less impact on the environment than even hydro-electric power. You don’t even mention nuclear on your website. Why is this?

  • JamesWimberley

    “MIT notes that the lead from one old lead-acid car battery would be enough for solar panels that could power 30 average households.” In other words. there will be far more lead from old batteries that a lead-perovskite solar industry could possibly use, on the most optimistic projections (mine). In its metal form, surplus lead is very easy to store safely. Given lead’s neurotoxicity, it would better if current efforts to substitute tin pan out.

    Thanks for the heads-up to my survey post.

    • Matt

      So sounds like one day soon we need a cheap way to convert those batteries to metal form.

    • I didn’t do the math, but I figured as much.

      Thanks for the great article.

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