With subsidies for solar panels one of the first cuts to be made under the Coalition government’s ‘Energy Bill’ in 2013, one of the best things that could happen to solar energy in the commercial energy sector is for the cost of producing panels to suddenly be made cheaper.
And whilst we’ve had no shortage of space-age solutions and efficiency-boosting nano-technologies that are in development, few seem overly practical or easily implemented into current production blueprints. However, scientists could be able to cut costs of commercial solar power by replacing a single component with sea salt.
The component in question is cadmium chloride; an expensive compound, cadmium is vital to the solar industry thanks to it’s ability to boost the efficiency of photo voltaic cells.
Not only that, it is also expensive to administer; cadmium needs to be applied delicately in a micro-thin film across each cell, under a fume hood given it’s potential toxicity.
Recent tests have now put forward a replacement; Magnesium chloride.
If that chemical sounds familiar; it should. Magnesium chloride is abundant in sea salt.
The fact that this substance is just as efficient as a cadmium-salt film is an exciting one, but the real news is that whilst cadmium chloride is around $300 US for a kilogram Mg-Cl is a mere $1 for the same amount.
The production benefits are substantial, too. As it is essentially ocean brine, it requires no special safety measures like its cadmium sibling. Additionally, scientist have been spraying prototypes with a simply hobby spray nozzle and returning positive results.
As an added bonus, given the organic nature of the compound, Mg-Cl is cheaper and less-risky to dispose of and recycle when the time comes to replace a photo voltaic panel.