During her Master thesis in our lab, Reiny Sangster worked on an 'out of the box' collaborative project. Together with our collaborators Eline Hutter (AMOLF & Utrecht University) and Bruno Ehrler (AMOLF), she studied the toxicity effects of metal halide perovskites on Arabidopsis.
Lead halide perovskites (CH3NH3PbI3) are used in next-generation solar cells. Being a cheap and efficient alternative for current systems, they are extensively studied. The common consensus is that these perovskites will harm the environment in case of leakage, because of the present lead ions.
However, Reiny discovered that not the lead, but the iodide in these perovskites cause most harm to Arabidopsis plants, at concentrations which are expected to build up in the soil under leaking solar panels. These results are surprising and stress that more research need to be done to the safety of these solar cells when used in agricultural settings.
The results of Reiny's thesis are written up in a manuscript, which is currently under consideration for publication. But the manuscript is already publicly available on the preprint service Arxiv: https://arxiv.org/abs/2012.06219