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Solar advance may reduce cost and risks of cell making

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Researchers in the UK say they have developed a method to make efficient solar cells without using a toxic compound.

The BBC reports that most solar cells are now made from silicon. However, about 7 % are now made from cadmium telluride which is lighter and cheaper than silicon.

The problem with cadmium telluride is that cadmium chloride, a toxic and expensive chemical is needed to make them.

Researchers from Liverpool University say they have found that magnesium chloride, a completely safe chemical found in tofu and bath salts, can be used as an alternative. Their findings have been published in the journal, Nature.

Dr John Major, who led the research, told the BBC that he believed solar energy could eventually meet the world's energy needs.

"There is enough sunlight that falls on the Earth every hour to generate enough electricity for the planet for a year," he said.

"The way solar is progressing it will just be a matter of time before it becomes competitive with fossil fuels and eventually replace them."

In another solar breakthrough earlier this month, CSIRO researchers used solar energy to generate hot and pressurised 'supercritical' steam, at the highest temperatures ever achieved in the world outside of fossil fuel sources.

According to the CSIRO, supercritical steam is a breakthrough for solar energy and means that one day the sun could be used to drive the most advanced power stations in the world, currently only driven by coal or gas.

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