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Solar Energy Roundup

December 16, 2011

Researchers have created a combination of fool’s gold and silicon that could be used to make inexpensive solar cells.



Catching the sun with fools’ gold. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Iron pyrite is known as fool’s gold because its shiny and worthless. But that may change, thanks to research at Oregon State University. Theoretically, pyrite could be used to make inexpensive solar cells, but it breaks down in the manufacturing process. The Oregon State researchers developed a cousin to pyrite, formed by the addition of silicon, to create a new material that is just as cheap as fool’s gold, but more stable and efficient.

In other solar news, Swiss researchers have announced an advance in dye sensitized solar cells, that use dyes to capture sunlight, the way leaves use chlorophyll. Despite being inexpensive, the cells haven’t been commercially viable because the dyes break down quickly. But a new formulation that is both efficient and long-lasting could make these solar sheets an important new player in harnessing the sun’s energy. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.