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Fool’s gold may not be so foolish for solar energy

Pyrite, also known as fool's gold, was the stuff of heartbreak for many a gold miner.

Mimicking the look of the precious gold they were after, pyrite was considered essentially worthless. But for the solar energy industry, pyrite just may turn into a pot of gold.

Researchers at the University of California Irvine are working towards using the plentiful mineral to create a solar receptive film at a cost far lower than that of using rare earth minerals.

"With alternative energy and climate change issues, we’re always in a race against time," said lead researcher Matt Law. "With some insight and a little bit of luck, we could find a good solution with something that’s now disposed of as useless garbage."

Commercial solar cells require expensive and possibly toxic materials such as cadmium telluride and silicon as the core of a solar cell, and often those materials come from China. Alternatively, pyrite is cheap and ubiquitous.

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