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Gold Rush II?

Could California be in store for a second gold rush? Possibly, according to a new study set to be published by the University of California, Berkley and the Lawrence Livermore Labs. The study's findings are outlined in an article authored by Cyrus Wadia, A.Paul Alivisatos and Daniel M. Kammen.

Solar Gold Rush, Solar Mineral Rush

The article premises that photovalitics (application of solar cells to create energy) will be an integral part of any future low-emission energy grid in the future, but the costs of materials necessary for production may limit large scale adoption. It is from this premise that the author's set out to test 23 semiconducting materials for not only their technical and economic performance, but also their extraction costs and supply constraints. From this study, twelve materials were found to posses the necessary capacity. Nine of those twelve would be cheaper then the current materials used in production, specifically silicon, cadmium telluride and copper indium gallium selenide.

One of those nine is iron pyrite, known as fool's gold. Fool's gold along with the other alternatives could provide raw production savings over the more traditional materials, but would come at a cost of lower efficiency. This is considered acceptable by the researchers. The aim of the study was to broaden the portfolio of materials used in photovalitics, not to replace silicon or cadmium telluride. By extension of the portfolio we can reduce depletion of all the natural resources while also providing a more stable price structure over the cost of multiple minerals. As new technologies are developed in the Silicon Valley for harnessing the power of the sun, California may find gold a new in once worthless metals.


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