Northwestern researchers develop environmentally friendly solar cell

Jordan Harrison, Assistant Campus Editor

Northwestern researchers are developing a new inexpensive and environmentally friendly solar cell model that uses tin instead of lead to harvest light.

Chemistry Prof. Mercouri Kanatzidis is heading the research effort with the help of NU nanoscientist Robert Chang. Although the tin model, which uses a structure called a perovskite, currently has an efficiency of around 6 percent, Kanatzidis said he is hopeful it will reach or surpass the 15 percent efficiency rate of lead perovskites.

“Other scientists will see what we have done and improve on our methods,” Kanatzidis said in a news release. “There is no reason this new material can’t reach an efficiency better than 15 percent, which is what the lead perovskite solar cell offers. Tin and lead are in the same group in the periodic table, so we expect similar results.”

The tin device can be made without complex equipment and Kanatzidis said it can absorb most of the visible light spectrum.

“Solar energy is free and is the only energy that is sustainable forever,” Kanatzidis said in the release. “If we know how to harvest this energy in an efficient way we can raise our standard of living and help preserve the environment.”

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