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Sustainability 2015, 7(9), 11818-11837;

Assessing Rare Metal Availability Challenges for Solar Energy Technologies

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, P.O. Box 1000, FI-02044 VTT, Espoo 02044, Finland
Global Energy Systems, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Uppsala, Villavägen 16, Uppsala 75121, Sweden
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Andrew Kusiak
Received: 2 June 2015 / Revised: 9 August 2015 / Accepted: 20 August 2015 / Published: 26 August 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Energy Conversion System Analysis)
Full-Text   |   PDF [936 KB, uploaded 26 August 2015]   |  


Solar energy is commonly seen as a future energy source with significant potential. Ruthenium, gallium, indium and several other rare elements are common and vital components of many solar energy technologies, including dye-sensitized solar cells, CIGS cells and various artificial photosynthesis approaches. This study surveys solar energy technologies and their reliance on rare metals such as indium, gallium, and ruthenium. Several of these rare materials do not occur as primary ores, and are found as byproducts associated with primary base metal ores. This will have an impact on future production trends and the availability for various applications. In addition, the geological reserves of many vital metals are scarce and severely limit the potential of certain solar energy technologies. It is the conclusion of this study that certain solar energy concepts are unrealistic in terms of achieving TW scales. View Full-Text
Keywords: solar energy; solar cells; rare metals; material constraints solar energy; solar cells; rare metals; material constraints

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Grandell, L.; Höök, M. Assessing Rare Metal Availability Challenges for Solar Energy Technologies. Sustainability 2015, 7, 11818-11837.

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