Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have developed a new technology that can recycle discarded car batteries into new, long-lasting solar panels.
In a research paper published in the Energy and Environmental Science journal, researchers said that the new solar power panel has been developed based on emerging solar cell technology that uses a compound called perovskite.
The perovskite comprises lead, whose production from raw ores can produce toxic residues.
Instead of using perovskite, lead from old car batteries can be recycled for solar panels, thereby preventing residues and diverting toxic material from landfills.
Belcher said that the market for new lead-acid batteries would decline over time, potentially leaving a large stockpile of lead with no application.
Around 90% of the lead recovered from the recycling of old batteries can be used to produce new solar cells.
MIT Energy W.M. Keck Professor Belcher said: "It went from initial demonstrations to good efficiency in less than two years.
"Once the battery technology evolves, more than 200 million lead-acid batteries will potentially be retired in the US, and that could cause a lot of environmental issues.
As the perovskite solar cell technology needs a thin film just half a micrometer thick of the photovoltaic material, the lead from a single car battery can be used to develop enough solar panels to provide power for 30 households.
The new solar cells give new use to surplus lead, and are also cheaper and easier to manufacture than silicon-based cells.
Italian energy company Eni, through the MIT Energy Initiative, supported the research work.
Belcher believes that other photovoltaics researchers will embrace the recycled perovskite solar cells to fine-tune the technology to deliver maximum efficiency.