Rapid sequestration of perovskite solar cell-derived lead in soil

Schmidt, Felix; Ledermann, Luca; Schäffer, Andreas; Snaith, Henry J.; Lenz, Markus


Efficient and stable perovskite solar cells rely on the use of Pb species potentially challenging the technologies’ commercialisation. In this study, the fate of Pb derived from two common perovskite precursors is compared to cationic lead in soil-water microcosm experiments under various biogeochemical conditions. The rapid and efficient removal of Pb from the aqueous phase is demonstrated by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry. Sequential soil extraction results reveal that a substantial amount of Pb is associated with immobile fractions, whereas a minor proportion of Pb may become available again in the long term, when oxygen is depleted (e.g. during water logging). X-ray absorption spectroscopy results reveal that the sorption of Pb on mineral phases represents the most likely sequestration mechanism. The obtained results suggest that the availability of leached Pb from perovskite solar cells is naturally limited in soils and that its adverse effects on soil biota are possibly negligible in oxic soils. All three Pb sources used behaved very similar in the experiments, wherefore we conclude that perovskite derived Pb will have a similar fate compared to cationic Pb, so that established risk assessment considerations for Pb remain legitimate.