Tofu Has Something that Can Help Improve Solar Panel Manufacture

By U.S. Department of Agriculture (20110504-RD-LSC-0621) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By U.S. Department of Agriculture (20110504-RD-LSC-0621) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

That scrumptious Japanese or Chinese tofu dish you are fond of has something that can improve the production of solar panels. According to a study conducted by a researcher at the University of Liverpool, Dr. Jon Major of the Stephenson Institute for Renewable Energy, there is a tofu ingredient that can be used in improving solar panel manufacture.

This ingredient is expected to revolutionize the production of solar cells. This ingredient is viewed as a method in coming up with safer and more efficiently produced solar panels. This ingredient is magnesium chloride.

Magnesium Chloride

Magnesium oxide (MgO) is a white air-moisture-absorbing solid mineral also known as magnesia (not a plural form for magnesium). It occurs in nature as periclase and is produced by the calcination of magnesium carbonate or magnesium hydroxide. It can also be produced by lime treating magnesium chloride and exposing it to heat. This substance has a variety of applications including, notably, its use in the production of tofu. It is also used as a refractory material for the agricultural, construction, environmental, and chemical industries. Moreover, this substance has medical uses, being used as a remedy for heartburn and sore stomach.

Public domain, via Wikimedia, picture taken by Walkerma

Public domain, via Wikimedia, picture taken by Walkerma

How Does MgO Improve Solar Cell Production

At present, solar cells are produced with cadmium chloride as a key ingredient. Magnesium oxide, according to researchers at the University of Liverpool, can replace cadmium chloride and provide a number of advantages.

Cost-Effective Alternative

Compared to cadmium chloride, magnesium oxide is notably less expensive. This substance costs a fraction of cadmium chloride as it is more abundant and easier to produce. Currently, magnesium oxide can be obtained at around $0.001 per gram, a price that is way cheaper than $0.3 average price per gram of cadmium chloride.

Environmentally Friendly

Aside from being inexpensive, this chemical used as an ingredient in tofu making does not harm the environment. Cadmium chloride and other chemicals used in current solar panel production need careful disposal procedures. Likewise, solar panels created with cadmium chloride require specialist disposal protocols when they are no longer needed. Magnesium oxide definitely offers something desirable that can reduce costs and the amount of work necessary in

Safe, Non-Toxic

Cadmium is highly toxic, a stark contrast from the safe nature of magnesium oxide. Magnesium oxide is produced with very minimal processing using relatively abundant sources that can be mined from the seas. With MgO used, elaborate safety measures to protect the health of workers involved in the production of solar panels can be relaxed.


The study conducted at the University of LIverpool revealed that magnesium oxide has the same efficiency boost when compared to cadmium chloride and other similar substances used in solar panel manufacture. At present, the cheapest kind of solar panels sold to retail consumers are created using a thin film of insoluble cadmium telluride. These inexpensive panels have an estimated efficiency of 2%. Those that use cadmium chloride, on the other hand, have an efficiency of 15%. Dr. Major notes that they have to apply cadmium chloride in a fume cupboard in the lab but are able to create solar cells with magnesium oxide on a bench using an ordinary spray gun purchased from a model shop.

By Oregon Department of Transportation (Beads  Uploaded by Smallman12q) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Oregon Department of Transportation (Beads Uploaded by Smallman12q) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

This new development paves the way for the lower cost of producing solar panels and, subsequently, cheaper solar cells for the retail and home use market. This can only be a boon for the drive to shift to renewable energy sources. With this technology becoming ready for actual use, the ambitious concept of Solar Roadways in addressing the global warming problem may soon become a reality.