OSU researchers find microwave ovens may be tapped for cheaper solar energy

Oregon State researchers have found a way to use microwave heat to improve the processing of a key ingredient for thin-film solar panels.

Oregon State researchers have found a way to use microwave heat to improve the processing of a key ingredient for thin-film solar panels. 

That same microwave oven you use to heat up leftovers may hold the key to making thin-film solar products using less energy, less cash and taking a smaller toll on the environment.

Researchers at Oregon State University have figured out how to use microwave heating to process copper zinc tin sulfide, a promising solar cell compound that is less costly and toxic than some solar energy alternatives.

"All of the elements used in this new compound are benign and inexpensive, and should have good solar cell performance," said Greg Herman, an associate professor at OSU's School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering in a press release.

Herman said some companies are looking for alternative compounds for use in thin-film photovoltaic technologies. The microwave heating greatly reduces the time it takes to make them.

Funding and support for this research was provided by Sharp Laboratories of America, the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute and the Oregon Process Innovation Center for Sustainable Solar Cell Manufacturing, an Oregon BEST signature research facility.

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