NSF - Sustainable Solar Energy Pathway

Earth Abundant Element

earth abundant element

Many elements currently used in solar cell production, such as Ag, Se, Te, Au, and Pt are relatively rare.  Our NSF-SEP project seeks to advance the science and technology of photovoltaics based on materials that are abundant so that Terawatts of PV power can be deployed. 

Abundance (atom fraction) of the chemical elements in Earth’s upper continental crust as a function of atomic number. Many of the elements are classified into (partially overlapping) categories:

  1. rock-forming elements (major elements in green field and minor elements in light green field);
  2. rare earth elements (lanthanides, La–Lu, and Y; labeled in blue);
  3. major industrial metals (global production >~3x107 kg/year; labeled in bold);
  4. precious metals (italic);
  5. the nine rarest “metals”—the six platinum group elements plus Au, Re, and Te (a metalloid). 

Reference Gordon B. Haxel, James B. Hedrick, and Greta J. Orris, Rare Earth Elements—Critical Resources for High Technology, U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 087-02

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Last Updated: 6/27/22