With more than 10 million cars on South African roads, there are at least as many car batteries out there. But once those car batteries die recycling them is a rather large problem as most batteries in use today are of the lead-acid variety.

So while the rest of the manufacturing world has shifted towards more efficient lithium ion batteries (the kind used in smartphones and tablets) the question of what happens to all of the toxic lead inside the lead-acid batteries when they’re finally phased out of existence in the coming decades remains.

A team of MIT researchers has shown how they can extract the lead from car batteries and use it in the manufacturing of perovskite solar cells which can then be used to generate electricity. The perovskite cells that are made may not be of the spray painted variety like some of their peers, but because of the extremely thin nature of perovskite cells one lead-acid battery can produce enough solar cells to provide enough electricity to power up to 30 houses.

At the moment the perovskite based solar cells have not yet reached the same level of efficiency as traditional solar cells – 19% efficiency for perovskite versus the 25% efficiency of silicon based solar cells – however the technology is progressing rapidly and could reach and potentially even surpass traditional solar cells in the next few years.

Whether or not the cells can be come more efficient or not the fact that toxins like lead can be recycled and used in the creation of renewable energy solar cells is just the kind of good news that the South African environment needed after yesterday.

[Source – MIT, Via – Engadget, Image – Rich Moffitt of Flickr (CC by 2.0)]
David is a technology enthusiast with an insatiable thirst for information. He tends to get excited over new hardware and will often be the one in the room going "Its got 17 cores, 64GB of RAM and a 5" 4K flexible OLED display, oh it makes phone calls too?" Currently uses: Too many phones. Wants: World peace... and more phones.