We’re disappointed that big news in France hasn’t made its way to the top of U.S. headlines: the French National Assembly recently passed a law that will help to limit young children’s exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) generated by wireless technologies. Two years in the works, the law encompasses various rules, including:
-Banning WiFi in any childcare facilities catering to children under the age of 3.
-Requiring cell phone manufacturers to recommend the use of hands-free kits to everyone.
-Banning any advertising that specifically targets youth under the age of 14.
The law, passed by a majority vote and adopted into place on January 29, 2015, is the first in France to suggest and establish that WiFi over-exposure may indeed be hazardous to young children — a controversial topic, not just in France, but around the world.
The law, entitled, “An Act on Sobriety, Transparency, Information and Consultation for Exposure to Electromagnetic Waves,” while comprised of many sections, most importantly, is setting a good example about how it may be best to take a precautionary approach when addressing the potential health risks of WiFi exposure. Various research, from informal to formal, shows that chronic exposure to WiFi, may be harmful to youth. Some current literature on the subject has shown that exposure to high-powered WiFi environments may include attention problems, cardiac irregularities, seizures, fatigue, and other health problems. Another scientific report published recently shows that kids’ brains may absorb twice as much cellphone radiation as adults’ brains. Last, but certainly not least, screen addiction has become a very real health and well-being issue. Unfortunately, and contrary to the initial proponents of the new law, WiFi will still be permitted in primary schools. That said, we’re still very happy to hear that France is taking small steps to alleviate some of the problems caused by screens and WiFi, and hope to see similar actions in the United States and other places around the world.http://www.inhabitots.com/france-bans-wifi-in-childcare-facilities-that-cater-to-children-under-age-3/
- Tags:cell phone, educational, electromagnetic frequency (emf), france, health & safety watch, health database, health risks, news, policy, research, sustainable living
There are an estimated 5 trillion pieces of plastic floating through the world’s oceans, enough to fill almost 600 jumbo jets. Cleaning up so much pollution might seem like a monumental task, but one 20-year-old is setting out to make a difference — in a big way.
Boyan Slat, the founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup, announced earlier this week that his organization will deploy the world’s first system to passively remove plastic waste from oceans around the world.
Ocean Array Could Clean Up 7,250,000 Tons Of Plastic
The system is comprised of a series of floating barriers that spans over a mile long, making it the longest floating structure in the ocean. The barriers trap floating plastic debris, which is then picked up a via conveyer belt 7,900 times faster and 33 times cheaper than other methods:
“Taking care of the world’s ocean garbage problem is one of the largest environmental challenges mankind faces today. Not only will this first cleanup array contribute to cleaner waters and coasts but it simultaneously is an essential step towards our goal of cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This deployment will enable us to study the system’s efficiency and durability over time,” said Slat.
The Ocean Cleanup plans to deploy the structure off of the coast of Japan during the second quarter of 2016.
Out of This World Cafe at CAMH, has a puff next to a newly installed recycling box affixed to a street pole at Queen St. W. and Ossignton Ave. Cigarettes tossed into new Queen West recycling bins will be turned into plastic lumber and pallets.
Warren Hawke, manager of the Out of This World Café, says he’s fed up with seeing tarry mounds of cigarette stubs on his way to work. Hundreds of cigarette butts are scattered on the strip of Queen St. W. and lawn in front of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, where the café is based. After he heard over the radio that Vancouver was recycling butts, he thought: “Why not do the same here?”
“I read that cigarette butts are the worst littering problem in the world,” he said, looking at the stubs sprinkled on the grass and sidewalk near the café. “So maybe we can start with our little corner.”
He teamed up with his city councillor, Mike Layton (open Mike Layton's policard), and U.S.-based recycling company TerraCycle to do something about the problem. CAMH and the West Queen West Business Improvement Area, a group representing businesses in the neighbourhood, are also backing the initiative.
After a year and a half, their pilot project is seeing the light of day. A CAMH maintenance crew fastened four sleek, stainless-steel cigarette recycling boxes Thursday to street poles near Queen St. W. and Ossington Ave.
Café staff will be in charge of emptying the boxes and shipping the butts to a TerraCycle plant in north Toronto, where they’ll be shredded and separated into organic and inorganic waste. The organic material will be turned into non-agricultural compost. The rest will be made into plastic lumber and shipping pallets, which could then be sold to home renovation stores and builders.
Layton said that’s a much better solution than letting tons of cigarette butts end up in a landfill or wash away into sewers and empty into Lake Ontario. The cigarette stubs “are made of plastic and they’re not breaking down — and what does break down is toxic,” he told the Star. “It’s poisoning our own water supply, which is pretty crazy.”
The pilot program has come at no cost to the city other than for the metal bands used to fasten the boxes to the poles.
He said he hopes litterbugs will stub out their cigarettes in the new boxes more than they do in the small and inconspicuous cigarette slots included in the city’s 8,000 garbage and recycling bins. Cigarettes tossed into the black or grey bins end up in a landfill. The city doesn’t know how many tons of cigarette butts end up in the trash, a city spokeswoman said. But according to last year’s litter audit, cigarette ends were the second-commonest small litter item, after chewing gum.
TerraCycle CEO Tom Szaky, who grew up near Eglinton Ave. W. and Bathurst, said he is glad street-side cigarette recycling bins have been installed in his hometown. In addition to polluting the water supply, discarded cigarettes also harm the ecosystem, he said.
“The (cigarette) filter was invented to trap as many of these cancer-causing agents or carcinogens as possible. Those are trapped in the butt and they become toxic pills for wildlife,” he said.
“The biggest message here is: If people don’t like seeing cigarette butts and all the damage they cause, don’t smoke. That is truly the answer. But if you do smoke — and about 20 per cent of Canadians do — then it’s really important not to litter.” http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/06/28/caf-owner-butts-in-to-solve-a-litter-issue-those-plastic-smoke-stubs.html
We’ve seen yoga, standing desks and vegetarian lunches turn troubled schools around, but we’ve never seen meditation adopted successfully within the school system. Until now. According to reports, several San Francisco middle and high schools, as well as scattered schools around the Bay Area, have adopted what they call, “Quiet Time” – a stress-reduction meditation strategy that is doing wonders for students and teachers.
The first school to adopt the Quiet Time practice in 2007, Visitacion Valley Middle School, has reaped huge rewards. Formally a school largely out of control, Visitacion Valley is smack in the middle of a neighborhood where shootings are common. This resulted in the students getting bad grades, skipping school and fighting daily, as they were likely highly troubled by the violence surrounding them. The situation at Visitacion Valley was so dire that teachers even started calling in sick, to avoid teaching these kids. The school tried everything from counseling to peer support to after-school tutoring and sports but nothing seemed to work until Quiet Time entered the picture.
The SFGate reports that within the first year that Quiet Time was used, “The number of suspensions fell by 45 percent. Within four years, the suspension rate was among the lowest in the city. Daily attendance rates climbed to 98 percent, well above the citywide average. Grade point averages improved markedly.”
Most importantly, the SFGate reports that, “Remarkably, in the annual California Healthy Kids Survey, these middle school youngsters recorded the highest happiness levels in San Francisco.” Now, at least three other schools have adopted Quiet Time with similarly successful results. Burton High School notes that students involved in Quiet Time say they experience significantly less stress and depression, and greater self-esteem, plus academic successes have risen dramatically.
The California Achievement Test, which measures grades of kids in CA, found that twice as many students in Quiet Time schools have become proficient in English, when compared to students who don’t participate in Quiet Time, and the gap is even bigger in math. Teachers in the schools using Quiet Time are also faring better, stating that they’re, “Less emotionally exhausted and more resilient.” The Quiet Time website notes the following success rates of meditation in schools:
*10% improvement in test scores—and a narrowing of the achievement gap.
*Highly effective for increasing creativity.
*Improved teacher retention and reduced teacher burnout.
*Greater happiness, focus and self-confidence.
*Reduced ADHD symptoms and symptoms of other learning disorders.
*86% reduction in suspensions over two years.
*40% reduction in psychological distress, including stress, anxiety and depression.
*65% decrease in violent conflict over two years.
While of course, we can’t know the very long-term effects of meditation in schools (yet) it’s clear that schools are benefiting from the innovative practice, making Quiet Time a stellar idea for other schools to try. For more information on the Quiet Time Program, contact Jamie Grant at Jamie@DavidLynchFoundation.org.
Meditation transforms roughest San Francisco schoolshttp://www.sfgate.com/opinion/openforum/article/Meditation-transforms-roughest-San-Francisco-5136942.php#src=fb
Learn more about Quiet Time and see how to adopt it in your child’s schoolhttps://www.davidlynchfoundation.org/schools.html
Tuesday night, the House passed legislation aimed at reforming the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA), the 1976 law that for almost 40 years has dictated how chemicals are managed in the United States. Passed with broad bipartisan support — with the only no vote coming from Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) — the bill is a first step toward reforming TSCA, largely considered one of the most ineffective environmental laws in the country.
“Eighty-five thousand chemicals have been introduced into commerce in the United States, and what we know is that less than 1,000 have been well-tested for their human health and environmental effects,” Noah Sachs, professor of law at the University of Richmond and a scholar at the Center for Progressive Reform in Washington, D.C., told ThinkProgress. “I think there’s an assumption that the government must be watching out for these things, and if there were a dangerous chemical out there the government would remove it, but that’s not what is happening at all.”
Advocates for chemical regulation reform point to several shortcomings in the existing TSCA statute. When the TSCA passed in 1976, some 64,000 chemicals that were currently in use were exempted from testing — since then, another 22,000 have been evaluated, but few have been designated as toxic. Crude MCHM, the chemical that spilled into West Virginia’s Elk River in January 2014, for instance, is unregulated. Between 1976 and 2007, the Environmental Protection Agency generated data on just 200 chemicals.
While TSCA gave the EPA the authority to review chemicals, it never provided the agency with a mandate on how it should go about doing it. Instead, it required high burdens of proof for deeming a chemical toxic, calling for its removal, or restricting its use. Under the current TSCA, any time the EPA wants to regulate a chemical, it has to provide a cost-benefit analysis showing that the agency’s alternative chemical is the least burdensome in terms of environmental and health impacts and cost. It has to provide that analysis not just for the proposed alternative, but for every other potential alternative as well.
I think there’s an assumption that … if there were a dangerous chemical out there the government would remove it, but that’s not what is happening at all
Asbestos — which is classified as a known human carcinogen and is banned in over 40 countries — is still legal in the United States due to the high burden of evidence required of the EPA under TSCA. In 1991, the Fifth Circuit found that the EPA, in trying to ban the substance, had failed to provide substantial evidence that a ban was the “least burdensome alternative” as required by TSCA, and rejected the EPA’s cost-benefit analysis. Since 1991, the EPA has not attempted to regulate an existing chemical.
The House bill removes the requirement that the EPA find the least burdensome alternative, and for the first time includes a mandate that the EPA begin testing chemicals for their safety, requiring that the EPA test 10 chemicals per year.
But some environmentalists worried that the bill still doesn’t go far enough in regulating dangerous substances.
“We commend the House for its focus on the need to overhaul chemical policy, but this piece of legislation will not do the job,” Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, said in a press statement. “It tips much too far in favor of an industry in serious need of regulation.”
Though the House bill removes the requirement that the EPA provide evidence of a less burdensome alternative — placing more emphasis on scientific evidence during safety assessments — it still requires the agency to “determine whether technically and economically feasible alternatives that benefit health or the environment…will be reasonably available as a substitute when the proposed prohibition or other restriction takes effect.”
It also requires that the EPA show proof of a chemical’s potential risk before testing can even begin, forcing the agency to amass a record of a chemical’s potential impacts before it can order more testing.
“I don’t see why that should be the agency’s task,” Sachs said. “I think it’s putting yet another procedural hurdle in the place of removing dangerous chemicals from the market.”
The House bill also allows chemical companies to request that the EPA test a given chemical — a provision that environmentalists worry will allow industry to dictate the EPA’s agenda.
“It’s a nice way for industry to drive the testing priorities,” Sachs said. “It’s pretty extraordinary that this bill allows industry to set the testing agenda for a government agency.”
The American Chemistry Council — the main trade association for the American chemical industry — was quick to praise the bill’s passage, calling it “a pivotal moment in the years-long effort to reform TSCA.”
Whatever gets passed may be with us for another generation
The Senate is expected to vote on a similar bill before the August recess. That bill is largely considered to be more comprehensive than the House version, as it creates standards for labeling chemicals as either high or low priority for testing. But the bill — which only requires the testing of 25 chemicals over five years and strips states of their right to create their own chemical regulations — has also been criticized by environmentalists and public health officials, who claim that industry interests played too large a role in its drafting.
In March, Hearst Newspapers obtained a copy of a final draft of the bill, before it was seen by a Senate subcommittee. The draft was written in the form of a Microsoft Word Document, and by checking the documents “advanced properties” in Word, the document’s company of origin turned out to be the American Chemistry Council.
“It was clear from the computer coding that the final draft originated at the American Chemical Council itself,” Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said the day before the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee began discussing the bill. “Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I do not believe that a regulated industry should be so intimately involved in writing a bill that regulates them.”
After the House passed its bill on Tuesday, however, Boxer expressed hope that the Senate could pass an amended version of the bill.
“While the House bill could still be improved, I feel it is the appropriate bill to take up in the United States Senate where we can work on just a few amendments to make it better,” she said in a statement.
Sachs, however, hopes that Congress build upon existing momentum to create a reform bill that addresses the gaps in current TSCA.
“Whatever gets passed may be with us for another generation,” he said. “I would like to see a much more aggressive statute, and after 40 years of working under this very weak law of TSCA, I think Congress can do a lot better to pass something more ambitious.”http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/06/24/3673415/toxic-chemical-reform-act-house-vote/
China’s campaign to wipe out air pollution reduced the levels of dangerous particulate matter in the air by 11 percent last year, according to the Ministry of Environment. But the country still has a long way to go before the air its citizens breathe every day can be considered healthy. Only eight out of the 74 cities surveyed met basic national air quality standards.
In the meantime, public awareness is rising. Pollution masks are hot commodities and startups making new models for indoor air purifiers are driving prices down. Now, a new invention currently being tested in Hong Kong claims it can reduce air pollution in an open outdoor space by an average of 40 percent (h/t to Techweb).
Jimmy Tong, one of the engineers at Arup, the firm that developed the device, told Forbes that initial data shows the purifier is reducing pollution in Wanchai. There’s been a 30 percent to 70 percent reduction in particulate matter, according to Tong. Given those results, Tong seemed optimistic that the bus-stop purifiers could be expanded to locations throughout Hong Kong.
The purifier is just the latest in a slew of innovations that are designed to counteract the amount of pollution in the air. From smog-eating poems on the sides of buildings to titanium-covered tiles, plenty of experimental projects are popping up that are designed to kill the toxic particulate matter. Of course, the real solution, as has been seen in Beijing and Paris, is to reduce the number of cars on the roads. But in the meantime, let’s hope ideas like this one help residents and tourists breathe a little easier.
The City Air Purification System, a research project from design and engineering firms Sino Green and ARUP, looks sort of like a small bus stop shelter, and that’s on purpose. Anyone standing near it, such as those waiting for a bus next to a busy street, can reap the benefits of cleansed air. Here’s how it works, according to Sino Green:
Under the prototype of the patent-pending system, air is drawn into the system from the inlet located at bottom. The air current then passes through a bag filter, which is effective in removing fine suspended particles (PM10 and PM2.5), before coming out through the louvre overhead.
Hong Kong has been testing 2 meter-by-3 meter purification station on one of its busiest streets, queen’s Road East in Causeway Bay, since March. Sino Green tells Tech in Asia one unit costs HKD 600,000 (US$77,400). (Update: an earlier version of this story referenced the Techweb article that said the project cost US$10 million to develop. Sino Green has informed us that figure is not accurate.)
Air quality at the station can be monitored remotely. Further planned enhancements include smart controllers to manage operating hours more efficiently, solar panels for energy, and a mist cooling system for summer months.
Techweb says the City Air Purification System will be tested at Beijing’s Tsinghua University next. If all goes as expected, it could expand to other mainland cities in the future.https://www.techinasia.com/outdoor-air-purifier-wait-bus-40-smoggy/
The Austrian pavilion designed by team.breathe.austria presents the air as planet’s staple food, combining the structure and the environment into an integrated contribution.
By planting a forest on an area of 560 square metre, the Austrian pavilion breathe.austria creates a multi-faceted network of relationships between mankind, the environment and the climate.
The pavilion forms a frame around a generous vegetation zone and acts as a vessel for the performance of the indoor landscape. With technical support (but without air-conditioning) the framed form actively generates the micro-climatic conditions of an Austrian forest. Where light enters the built structure, there is growth and ecological metabolism.
The vegetation of the miniature forest has a foliar surface or evaporation area of approx. 43,200 sqm and produces 62.5 kg fresh oxygen per hour – enough for 1,800 people – a “photo-synthesis collector”, which contributes to the global production of oxygen. Inside the pavilion this effect is technically supported by evaporative cooling – but without air-conditioning systems. This replicates an atmosphere that feels like a thick forest in Austria with comparatively natural means using the cooling effect of the evapo-transpiration of the plants. The result that is achieved differs significantly on a number of sensory levels from the air and climate in Milan and can thus actually be felt by visitors.
The planting of trees over the entire exhibition area is an exemplary contribution to action in an urban setting, as the integrated use of a landscape can supply urban areas with sufficient oxygen and cooling air, which in turn provides an opportunity to draw attention to Austria’s policy of sustainable reforestation or conversely to the decline in the global tree population.http://www.expoaustria.at/en/austrias-participation/pavilion/concept.htmlhttp://green.appledaily.com/video?videoid=224237323304960
- Tags:air pollution, architectural designs, climate change, ecological footprints, ecotour, educational, energy, energy saving, green building, green energy, news, non-toxic innovations, research, sustainable community, sustainable development, sustainable living, sustainable materials, urban planning, zero waste
With the release of the third edition of the World Happiness Report today, experts in areas including economics, psychology and survey analysis delivered new possibilities for improving happiness on a global level.
“Happiness is a critical indicator for both individuals and societies,” says Jeffrey Sachs, professor at The Earth Institute at Columbia University and one of the report’s authors. “We should measure subjective well-being and report on it regularly with the aim of raising well-being.”
To be released today
The report, released online today, will be the topic of a public meeting from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday at the New York Society for Ethical Culture. Jeffrey will be joined by report co-authors John Helliwell and Richard Layard to discuss their findings and their implications for the future.
The first report, released in 2012, reported on the role public policy could play in a country’s happiness. The second and third reports have combined the analysis of the most recent happiness data with chapters that delve into specific issues.
New today: Gender and Global issues
New areas of focus for 2015 include showing how happiness measures differ by age, gender and global region. It also dedicates an entire chapter on happiness in children.
The report notes that one-third of the world population is under the age of 18, and suggests that improving the well-being of children could have positive, lasting effects on communities as a whole. It offers areas to consider that could improve happiness among children, and spells out the positive effect such changes could have on society.
A focus on children
“Children’s well-being and health is vitally important, and there are high levels of untreated problems,” the report concludes. “We have good evidence-based ways to improve this.” Those methods include making well-being as important an initiative for student development in schools as intellectual growth, and creating community well-being initiatives for children. The report also states that the cost of implementing such changes is manageable, since so many other costs will be saved.
Social capital and mental health
In addition to increasing its focus on how social values, social capital and mental health conditions affect national happiness, the new report also delivers new information on neuroscience and happiness. Dr. Richard J. Davidson, founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, is one of the world’s leading experts on how contemplative practices such as meditation affect the brain. He contributed a paper to the report that raises exciting possibilities about how mindfulness and compassion training may help increase happiness in entire populations.
Jeffrey says he is encouraged by the reaction on both a governmental and grassroots level.
“The main message of the report is that improvements in happiness are feasible and depend heavily on societal measures and good governance,” he says. “ http://worldhappiness.reporthttp://www.livehappy.com/blogs/live-happy-team/world-happiness-report-looks-improving-happiness-children
A team of microbiologists and designers wants our future food to pull double duty by breaking down man-made trash while growing tasty treats.
The Fungi Mutarium is a prototype device that uses fungi to safely break down plastic and grow edible, fluffy biomass in its place.
Here’s how it works: small bits of thin plastic—like the kind that make up shopping bags—are doused in UV light to sterilize them and start to break the plastic down. The plastic is then placed in a small pod made of agar, an edible, algae-based gelatin. The pods are placed in the “growth sphere”, a dome-like incubator.
Next, liquified fungi sprouts are dribbled into the agar pods. After just a few weeks, edible fungi begin to grow and cover the pod. After several months, the fungi will completely decompose the plastic, leaving you with nothing but a natural, edible growth.
Two Vienna-based industrial designers created the mutarium in collaboration with microbiologists from the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands. Katharina Unger, one of the designers, said she and her colleague were interested in working with ingredients that are not usually considered food. They were paired up with Han Wösten, the head of the biology department at Utrecht, through the Bio Art & Design award, a grant that connects scientists with designers.
“We were both really inspired about the idea that something digests plastic but then still creates edible biomass,” Unger told me over the phone from Vienna.
The fungi used come from the mycelium, or roots, of oyster mushrooms and split gill mushrooms, two of the most popular mushrooms in the world.
“We worked with fungi named Schizophyllum Commune and Pleurotus Ostreatus. They are found throughout the world and can be seen on a wide range of timbers and many other plant-based substrates virtually anywhere in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas and Australia.
They digest toxic waste materials, and are also commonly eaten,” Unger explained.
Once the plastic has fully degraded, the harvested pods can be eaten whole and have a mild taste, Unger said.
“It starts off being very neutral, but it can also get a bit nutty and spicy in taste. It really depends on the strain, actually.”
But the neutral taste makes the pods versatile. The team also crafted recipes for serving the pods that ranged from a savoury version with seaweed and caviar to a sweet dish with peaches and yogurt.
After several months of experiments, the team revealed their prototype online earlier this month. Unger and her design studio, Livin, have made headlines in the past for future-thinking devices like a countertop incubator that grows edible maggots. She said the aim is to create singular solutions to a range of problems from food waste to pollution.
But don’t expect to be growing plastic-destroying mushrooms on your kitchen countertop any time soon; the mutarium is still in the research phase. The multiple-months-long process to break down the tiny bits of plastic is a major roadblock to mass use, Unger said.
“We know that there’s potential to speed up this process simply by optimizing the processes around it: temperature, humidity, the perfect microclimate for this fungi to colonize the plastic material,” she said.
“Also, though it’s more controversial, there is genetic modification. What happens if you modify the organism so that it can process the materials more quickly?”
For now, they’re seeking more funding to continue to develop the mutarium and are hopeful the design itself will inspire people to start challenging ideas about what we expect from our food.
“We were mainly there in the lab to ask questions that designers ask and stimulate our researchers to think differently about the work that they’re doing and also about the possible applications of it,” Unger said.
Currently the digestion of the plastic is a relatively slow process, taking up to a few months for a set of cultures to fully mature - but still a lot faster than the time it takes for plastic to biodegrade in nature.
The Fungi Mutarium is a conceptual device that presents ongoing research and is currently not a commercially available product.
Unger and Kaisinger are currently looking for collaborators who will help fund the next steps for their research - which will look at how to make the process faster and more efficient.http://www.thelocal.at/20141218/turning-plastic-waste-into-food
At This Zero-Waste Grocery Store, Plastic and Packaging Aren't Allowedhttp://www.takepart.com/article/2014/05/24/berlins-getting-zero-waste-grocery-store
- Tags:australia, biomimicry, educational, europe, food production, food security, news, non-toxic innovations, research, toxic chemicals, waste management, zero waste
Lead from old car batteries can be recycled to create renewable energy. Proposal could divert a dangerous waste stream while producing low-cost photovoltaics.
This could be a classic win-win solution: A system proposed by researchers at MIT recycles materials from discarded car batteries — a potential source of lead pollution — into new, long-lasting solar panels that provide emissions-free power.
The system is described in a paper in the journal Energy and Environmental Science, co-authored by professors Angela M. Belcher and Paula T. Hammond, graduate student Po-Yen Chen, and three others. It is based on a recent development in solar cells that makes use of a compound called perovskite — specifically, organolead halide perovskite — a technology that has rapidly progressed from initial experiments to a point where its efficiency is nearly competitive with that of other types of solar cells.
“It went from initial demonstrations to good efficiency in less than two years,” says Belcher, the W.M. Keck Professor of Energy at MIT. Already, perovskite-based photovoltaic cells have achieved power-conversion efficiency of more than 19 percent, which is close to that of many commercial silicon-based solar cells.
Initial descriptions of the perovskite technology identified its use of lead, whose production from raw ores can produce toxic residues, as a drawback. But by using recycled lead from old car batteries, the manufacturing process can instead be used to divert toxic material from landfills and reuse it in photovoltaic panels that could go on producing power for decades.
Amazingly, because the perovskite photovoltaic material takes the form of a thin film just half a micrometer thick, the team’s analysis shows that the lead from a single car battery could produce enough solar panels to provide power for 30 households.
As an added advantage, the production of perovskite solar cells is a relatively simple and benign process. “It has the advantage of being a low-temperature process, and the number of steps is reduced” compared with the manufacture of conventional solar cells, Belcher says.
Those factors will help to make it “easy to get to large scale cheaply,” Chen adds.
Battery Pileup Ahead
One motivation for using the lead in old car batteries is that battery technology is undergoing rapid change, with new, more efficient types, such as lithium-ion batteries, swiftly taking over the market. “Once the battery technology evolves, over 200 million lead-acid batteries will potentially be retired in the United States, and that could cause a lot of environmental issues,” Belcher says.
Today, she says, 90 percent of the lead recovered from the recycling of old batteries is used to produce new batteries, but over time the market for new lead-acid batteries is likely to decline, potentially leaving a large stockpile of lead with no obvious application.
In a finished solar panel, the lead-containing layer would be fully encapsulated by other materials, as many solar panels are today, limiting the risk of lead contamination of the environment. When the panels are eventually retired, the lead can simply be recycled into new solar panels.
“The process to encapsulate them will be the same as for polymer cells today,” Chen says. “That technology can be easily translated.”
“It is important that we consider the life cycles of the materials in large-scale energy systems,” Hammond says. “And here we believe the sheer simplicity of the approach bodes well for its commercial implementation.”
Old Lead Is As Good As New
Belcher believes that the recycled perovskite solar cells will be embraced by other photovoltaics researchers, who can now fine-tune the technology for maximum efficiency. The team’s work clearly demonstrates that lead recovered from old batteries is just as good for the production of perovskite solar cells as freshly produced metal.
Some companies are already gearing up for commercial production of perovskite photovoltaic panels, which could otherwise require new sources of lead. Since this could expose miners and smelters to toxic fumes, the introduction of recycling instead could provide immediate benefits, the team says.
Yang Yang, a professor of materials science and engineering at the University of California at Los Angeles who was not involved in this research, says, “Wow, what an interesting paper, that turns the waste of one system into a valuable resource for another! I think the work demonstrated here … can resolve a major issue of industrial waste, and provide a solution for future renewable energy.”
The work, which also included research scientist Jifa Qi, graduate student Matthew Klug and postdoc Xiangnan Dang, was supported by Italian energy company Eni through the MIT Energy Initiative.
- Tags:educational, energy, energy production, green energy, hazardous waste, lead-acid car batteries, news, research, solar, sustainable development, sustainable energy, toxic chemicals, toxics, usa, zero waste