Outdoor fate and environmental impact of polymer solar cells through leaching and emission to rainwater and soil
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The emission of silver and zinc to the aq. environment (rain, fog, dew) from polymer solar cells installed outdoors is presented. Studies included pristine solar cells and solar cells subjected to mech. damage under natural weather conditions in Denmark. We find the emission of silver and zinc to the environment through pptd. water for damaged solar cells, and also obsd. failure and emission from an initially undamaged device in an expt. that endured for 6 mo. In the case of the damaged cells, we found that the drinking water limits for Ag were only exceeded on a few single days. We also progressed our studies to include end-of-life management. To assess the implications of improper practices (uncontrolled disposal, landfilling) at the end-of-life, we buried different OPV types in intact and damaged forms in soil columns. In the case of high Ag emission (shredded cells), the potential for migration was confirmed, even though the soil was found to exhibit sequestration of silver. We conclude that recycling of Ag at the end-of-life is mandatory from an environmental point of view.