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Zinc could replace rare earths in solar cells, screens

Source: University of Oxford

Researchers at the University of Oxford have won £25000 towards replacing indium tin oxide (ITO) transparent conductors with cheaper zinc-based coatings

Currently, the vast majority of panels are coated in indium tin oxide (ITO).  Indium is a scarce material, and is much in demand for a variety of hardware purposes, such as LCD screens and indeed solar photovoltaic panels.   
Due to the scarcity of supply and volatile pricing of ITO, researchers are attempting to find cheaper alternatives for conductive solar cell coatings.  This is good for people, not to mention the clear benefits for the environment in terms of making PV panels more readily available.
However the Oxford Uni researchers are developing a new type of coating which is based on more readily available materials notably zinc, a more abundant element.  The team at Oxford are now using funding from the Materials Science Venture Prize to develop solar panel coatings using silicon doped zinc oxide.
The funding will now mean that the team are able to test out manufacturing processes, and will explore the use of silicon doped zinc oxide in LCD screens and other applications.

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