Monday, March 5, 2012

Fool’s gold (NOT GOLD) leads to new options for cheap solar energy


Pyrite (iron sulphide), better known as fool’s gold, helped researchers at Oregon State Univer sity, Corvallis, discover related compounds that offer new, inexpensive, and promising options for solar energy. The new compounds, unlike some solar cell materials made of rare, expensive, or toxic elements, are benign and could be processed from some of the most abundant ele-ments on Earth.
Pyrite was of interest early in the solar en-ergy era because it had an enormous capacity to absorb solar energy, was abundant, and could be used in layers 2000 times thinner than some of its competitors, such as silicon. However, it did not effectively convert the solar energy into elec-tricity because, in extreme heat, it starts to de-compose and forms products that prevent the creation of electricity. Because of this understanding, researchers sought and found com-pounds that had the same capabilities of pyrite but didn’t decompose. One of them was iron silicon sulfide. www.oregonstate.edu.
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