Conventional photovoltaic systems often have only low efficiency, i.e. only a fraction of the solar energy is converted into electrical energy and made usable. For this reason, research is being conducted into innovative materials that can significantly increase the energy yield and thus also enable more electrical energy to be generated from renewable sources. However, most of these materials contain toxic heavy metals, such as lead perovskite materials (material text perovskites) or lead quantum dots.
The review article addresses the question of how these novel photovoltaic materials can be made more sustainable in the future (basic text sustainability). For this purpose, in addition to the release scenarios of lead from solar cells due to environmental influences, their toxicity for humans and the environment is also considered, and avoidance strategies are shown that can effectively prevent the release of lead. These consist, for example, of reducing the lead content in photovoltaic modules or replacing lead with other, less critical elements (e.g. tin). There is also the possibility of coating solar cells or encapsulating the lead-containing components and thus protecting them from the effects of wind, rain and heat. Additives can also be used for stabilization (e.g. fullerenes). This can effectively prevent the release of lead into the environment.
Finally, recycling processes are summarized that allow the lead to be recovered and reused in new products. These processes can have tremendous environmental and economic benefits, as the release of lead into the environment from waste is prevented, and the reuse of the lead for new products is sustainable in the circular economy sense. It is clear at this point that many of the recycling processes presented rely on the use of large amounts of various solvents, which is also critical. The authors state that more research is needed for effective and sustainable recycling and suggest that recycling costs should be included for an economic consideration of lead-containing solar materials.
This article provides a comprehensive review of how higher efficiency ,but with critical heavy metals, solar materials needed for the energy transition could be made more sustainable, and the authors outline future research is needed on these materials, which are still in development.
Xingwen Lu, Dong Yan, Jiangtao Feng, Meng Li, Bo Hou, Zhe Li, Fei Wang
Ecotoxicity and Sustainability of Emerging Pb-Based Photovoltaics. Sol. RRL 2022, 6, 2200699
Spotlight November 2020: Nanotechnology in the public perception
In November, we would like to draw your attention to a publication that examines public perception of the safety of nanomaterials in Austria.It shows, that although there is generally a rather positive attitude towards nanomaterials, there are different opinions on safety issues from different social groups. Further clarification seems necessary. Despite the widespread use of […]Read more
Spotlight August 2022: Three-stage model for the formation of micro- and nanoplastic particles.
Plastic pollution is a global problem that will continue to affect humanity for more than 100 years. There is the visible pollution, e.g. plastic debris in the environment, which leads to death for many animals (because they mistakenly think the plastic is food and eat it or because they get caught in the plastic waste). […]Read more
Spotlight February 2022: Probabilistic risk assessment – the keystone for the future of toxicology
The basics of toxicology are constantly being reconsidered, and the approach to risk assessment is therefore constantly being put to the test, because, as William Osler is cited in this publication, “Medicine (toxicology) is a science of uncertainty and an art of probability“. In this recent paper, the team around Thomas Hartung (Johns-Hopkins University/University of […]Read more
Spotlight January 2021: Nanoplastics challenge – How to improve tracking of nanopolystyrene distribution in the environment.
In January, we present a paper published in the Nature Journal communications materials. The article focuses on the development of a new detection method of nanopolystyrene. The method not only makes it possible to detect nanoplastics in the environment for the first time, but also to determine their accumulation in plants and animals. Nanoplastics, which […]Read more