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By Andrew Tanner-Smith on 12/10/23

According to a recent review by researchers from China and elsewhere, perovskite solar cells have achieved a record efficiency of 25.6%, surpassing that of many existing solar panels. The review also highlighted the progress of perovskite-based tandem solar cells, which have reached an efficiency of over 29%. Moreover, the review discussed the advances in lead-free perovskites, which aim to address the toxicity issue of lead-based perovskites. 

Although market data is scarce, due to its limited usage currently, various market research houses including Precedence Research, and Allied Market Research Astute Analytica all suggest compound annual growth rates of around 35% over the next 10 years, with the global market for perovskite-based solar panels to reach more than $6bn by 2030. Great for solar panel suppliers, and the perovskite supply chain. Not such good news for those communities affected by its extraction and processing. 

Perovskite is primarily found in countries such as China, Russia, and the United States. The mining of perovskite can have severe environmental impacts, including water pollution, land degradation, and deforestation. These environmental impacts can also have profound consequences for the communities living near the mining sites. 

According to a study by researchers from MIT and elsewhere, the mining of perovskite can cause up to 16 times more greenhouse gas emissions than the mining of silicon, the most widely used material for solar panels. The study also found that the mining of perovskite can consume up to 75 times more water than the mining of silicon, and up to 19 times more land area. 

The mining of perovskite can also have negative social impacts on local communities. Mining operations can displace communities, disrupt their traditional way of life, and cause conflicts over land use. Moreover, mining activities often provide limited employment opportunities for local people, and the jobs are often low-paying and dangerous. 

According to a report by Amnesty International, the mining of perovskite in China has been linked to human rights violations, such as forced evictions, land grabs, and lack of consultation and compensation. The report also documented cases of child labour, exposure to toxic chemicals, and poor health and safety conditions in perovskite mines. 

Furthermore, there are concerns about the working conditions of miners in perovskite mines. Safety standards may not be up to par, and workers may be exposed to harmful chemicals and hazardous working conditions. 

Sustainable mining practices and responsible sourcing of perovskite are essential to ensure that mining operations are conducted in an environmentally friendly and socially responsible manner. The industry must work to minimize the environmental impact of mining by implementing measures to reduce pollution, promote reforestation, and protect water sources. 

The perovskite industry must also ensure that local communities benefit from mining activities, providing adequate compensation, employment opportunities, and support for local development. This includes working with local communities to understand their needs and concerns and involving them in decision-making processes. 

In addition to sustainable mining practices, there is a need for research and development of alternative sources of perovskite. This includes exploring the use of recycled materials and developing new mining techniques that minimize the environmental impact of mining. 

Despite the challenges associated with perovskite mining, the potential benefits of the material cannot be ignored. Its high efficiency, versatile applications, and low-cost production make it an attractive alternative to traditional renewable energy devices. With the right approach, perovskite could play a key role in decarbonisation efforts and help us build a sustainable future for generations to come.