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Solar Pyrite Nanocrystals

Solar Pyrite Nanocrystals

Thin film and nanocrystal solar cells are pushing the edge of photovoltaics, but are often constructed using a silicon base doped with various forms of cadmium, tellurium, indium and other elements that push costs up. A substance that is abundant, cheap and has the right optical properties could produce an inexpensive solar cell. Iron sulfide (FeS2) has become a candidate.

Mining Fool’s Gold for Solar – [technologyreview.in]

Fool’s gold, also called pyrite or iron sulfide, can be unearthed just about anywhere, from the hills of California to the villages of Yunnan Province in China. But instead of digging pyrite up, researcher Cyrus Wadia is making pure nanoparticles of the compound from iron and sulfur salts in his lab at the University of California, Berkeley. His ultimate goal is to turn fool’s gold into real treasure: an inexpensive solar cell.

Fool’s Gold a Golden Opportunity for Solar – [discovery.com]

While all pyrite shares the same chemical formula, its physical structure, or phase, can vary. Unless the entire cell is the same phase, it can only achieve the 3 percent efficiency that has been reported for over 25 years. Even slight variations dramatically reduce its ability to convert sunlight into electricity.

Wadia thinks he has solved this problem by using nanocrystals. By manipulating pyrite at an atomic level, Wadia can increase the number of wavelengths his pyrite solar cell can capture while also eliminating the trace amounts of impure iron sulfide phases.


Pyrite
– [chem.ox.ac.uk]

from the Greek word, pyr, meaning “fire.”

Description and Occurrence

Pyrite crystal usually forms as a cube with fine ridges (striations) on the crystal’s faces. Less commonly, it forms as octahedrons (eight-sided shapes), nodules, or massive forms. It can also occur as coarse granules.

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