A Cheaper Cell

Antifreeze shows promise in solar cell manufacturing
 These nanoparticles of copper zinc tin sulfide are processed with a common antifreeze solvent to produce good quality solar cells. (Image courtesy of Oregon State University)


These nanoparticles of copper zinc tin sulfide are processed with a common antifreeze solvent to produce good quality solar cells. (Image courtesy of Oregon State University)

Faster, cheaper, better. The conventional wisdom says you can’t get all three at the same time. But researchers at Oregon State say otherwise — at least when it comes to new materials for making solar cells. Engineers have found a less expensive, less toxic, better performing — and surprising — substance for solar cell manufacturing: antifreeze (ethylene glycol). Current technologies use rare and costly chemical elements like indium and gallium.

“The global use of solar energy may be held back if the materials we use to produce solar cells are too expensive or require the use of toxic chemicals in production,” says researcher Greg Herman. “We need technologies that use abundant, inexpensive materials, preferably ones that can be mined in the U.S. This process offers that.”

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