Tofu Ingredient Could Lead to Cheaper Way of Making Solar Cells

Image: John Major, University of Liverpool physicist
Physicist Jon Major by the Stephenson Institute’s sputtering deposition system – the first step in transforming ordinary window glass into solar panels. University of Liverpool

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What do solar panels and tofu have in common? Not much yet, but that could be about to change. U.K. scientists have found that magnesium chloride, a common chemical used as a bath salt and as a coagulant in the production of tofu, can replace cadmium chloride, a key component in the process used to make thin-film solar panels. While cadmium chloride works well, it's toxic and expensive. Physicist John Major, from the University of Liverpool's Stephenson Institute for Renewable Energy, says magnesium chloride is a fraction of the cost of cadmium chloride and "completely non-toxic." While silicon photovoltaics currently dominate the market, Major says his teams' finding could help thin-film solar cells make significant inroads. The study was published online this week in the journal Nature.

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