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Grant helps researchers look at low-cost renewable electricity solution

A collaborative team of researchers, including Laura Gagliardi from the Department of Chemistry, and Eray Aydil and Chris Leighton from the Department of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science, have received a research grant to explore pyrite iron disulfide as a low-cost solution for renewable electricity. This team was one of four at the University of Minnesota to receive a $717,360 grant from the Institute on the Environment's Renewable Electricity for Minnesota's Future grant program.

This project will pursue the development of pyrite iron disulfide (FeS2), an Earth-abundant chemical, as a sustainable light-absorbing material for low-cost solar cells. Capitalizing on their recent discoveries, the researchers will investigate two related approaches to making pyrite-based solar cells that have never previously been possible: 1) making solar cells only from FeS2 and 2) combining FeS2 with silicon to reduce the cost of commercial silicon solar cells. Project partners are tenK Solar and Physical Electronics.

The Renewable Electricity for Minnesota’s Future grant program was established in 2015 with a $3 million block grant from Xcel Energy’s Renewable Development Fund and $135,000 matching funds from the University. Its goal is to support interdisciplinary projects that increase market penetration of renewable electric energy resources; promote start-up, expansion and attraction of renewable electric energy projects and companies; stimulate research and development into renewable electric energy technologies; and develop near-commercial and demonstration-scale renewable electricity–related projects in Minnesota. A panel of 11 nationally recognized energy experts chose the following projects to receive grants.

Additional information about the grant projects can be found on the Institute on the Environment's website.