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Discarded car batteries could become low-cost solar cells

Discarded car batteries could become low-cost solar cells
Mariella Moon
Mariella Moon|@mariella_moon|August 20, 2014 2:05 AM
Car battery

It's great that manufacturers recover lead from discarded car batteries to use in new ones, since lead production from ores yields toxic residues. The problem is, when we shift from lead-acid to lithium-ion and other types of batteries (and we're starting to), over 200 million old batteries could be retired in the US and cause serious environmental issues. Thankfully, a team of MIT researchers has discovered one way to recycle lead from car batteries, and the end product is something very, very useful: long-lasting solar cells. We're talking about a new breed of solar cells in particular, one that uses a compound called perovskite, which needs lead to be manufactured.

For the past two years, the scientists have been working on using old car batteries to make perovskite solar cells, until they've finally reached a 19 percent efficiency that's comparable to more traditional silicon cells. Even better, since perovskite cells are extremely thin, a single car battery could produce solar panels for 30 homes. These new cells are also potentially cheaper to make, as the scientists came up with a low-temperature process that's comparably quicker than traditional solar cell production. Want more info? You can read the team's paper published in Energy and Environmental Science for a detailed explanation, or watch how the scientists process old lead in new solar cells in the video below.

[Image credit: Getty Images]

Discarded car batteries could become low-cost solar cells