Towards sustainable photovoltaics: the search for new materials

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The opportunities for photovoltaic (PV) solar energy conversion are reviewed in the context of projected world energy demands for the twenty-first century. Conventional single-crystal silicon solar cells are facing increasingly strong competition from thin-film solar cells based primarily on polycrystalline absorber materials, such as cadmium telluride (CdTe) and copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGS). However, if PVs are to make a significant contribution to satisfy global energy requirements, issues of sustainability and cost will need to be addressed with increased urgency. There is a clear need to expand the range of materials and processes that is available for thin-film solar cell manufacture, placing particular emphasis on low-energy processing and sustainable non-toxic raw materials. The potential of new materials is exemplified by copper zinc tin sulphide, which is emerging as a viable alternative to the more toxic CdTe and the more expensive CIGS absorber materials.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1840-1856
Number of pages17
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A - Mathematical Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number1942
Publication statusPublished - 13 May 2011


  • thin film
  • electrodeposition
  • solar cells
  • photovoltaics
  • sustainability


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