A solar panel or photovoltaic cell is probably the first thing you would think of if you were asked what a green building material was. But you’d be wrong. In fact, just about everything about a solar panel or cell isn’t green-in a sense. The materials that are used in the production of conventional solar and photovoltaic cells and how they are made or obtained are not very green processes.
According to NASA Scientists, photovoltaics are the direct conversion of light into electricity at the atomic level. Some materials, (semi-conductors in particular) exhibit a particular photoelectric effect that allows them to directly shed electrons. Once you hook up wires and complete a circuit, and electrical current is generated.
Quartz crystallites mixed with silicate particulates are generally good at absorbing solar radiation and converting it into electricity. Modern methods of chemistry magic create better and better upgrades. But the causalities to our environment through mining and chemical production facilities are high.
Even more shocking is the revelation that just one mine in North Carolina controls the monopoly to quartz, feldspar, silicon and other minerals crucial solar production, microchip and computer-processor production facilities worldwide. If you’re reading this online, you’re able to because of the Spruce Pine Mining District. Every single microchip and solar cell in the world contains a trace amount of Spruce Pine, North Carolina quartz and other minerals.
Cyanobacteria might just change the playing field for photovoltaics-and quite possibly computers as we know it. Commonly known as blue-green algae, it is being used in a wide variety of experiments and applications for future energy sources from algae in your gas tank to food fro your family.
What’s even more amazing is Cyanobacteria are thought to collectively store an estimated 25 giga-tons of carbon dioxide per year! This is great news for reducing green house gases with a double-punch attack of reducing carbon dioxide pollution through fossil-fuel reduction and the absorption of existing carbon dioxide.
Scientists at the University of Maryland discovered how Cyanobacteria generate extra electrons as they process it themselves for photosynthesis. With the Cyanobacteria directly applied to an anode and sunlight is introduced, extra electrons are generated exactly like a conventional photovoltaic cell made from mined semi-conductor materials.
While these experiments continue, it is for now out of our reach for practical applications. While the process has been proved, mass-produced manufacturing capabilities have yet to be designed and put into use. Without further studies and funding, it may be sometime before we see algae power in our everyday lives.