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Climate Tech

The Rising Importance Of Tellurium For The Energy Transition

February 2, 2024
x min read

The global energy transition is leading to breakthrough innovations in climate tech. But, one rare metalloid might be a critical part of the future of net zero emissions.

What’s happening:

  • Tellurium is a relatively unknown metalloid that is quickly becoming one of the most important chemical elements to the energy transition
  • Tellurium is a critical input for multiple technologies that accelerate renewable energy, most notably solar panels

The big idea:

  • Tellurium has semiconductor properties which help convert sunlight into electricity in solar panels when alloyed with cadmium
  • Cadmium telluride solar panels, which require both cadmium and tellurium, are the most popular new types of solar panels being manufactured in North America
  • Cadmium telluride solar panels are superior to traditional silicon solar cells because of their high absorption of sunlight and low cost of manufacturing

Who is making moves:

  • First Tellurium (CSE: FTEL) owns a flagship tellurium property in Colorado and has also announced multiple potential breakthrough innovations for new applications of tellurium, including a solid state lithium tellurium battery prototype being worked on in collaboration with researchers from the University of British Columbia Okanagan

Going deeper:

  • Australia recently added tellurium to their list of critical minerals, joining Canada, the United Kingdom and other countries
  • Tellurium is currently the second most important material for new solar panel installations, after silicon
  • The University of British Columbia Okanagan previously published a research study through their collaboration with First Tellurium that validated adding tellurium to existing lithium battery technology enhanced the charging time, safety and overall lifespan of the battery

By the numbers:

  • The United States Department of Energy has invested $20M USD into launching the Cadmium Telluride Accelerator Consortium to accelerate making cadmium telluride solar cells less expensive and more efficient
  • 55% of all new solar panel installations in the United States are now being manufactured with cadmium telluride, in large part to the rapid growth of Ohio based First Solar who is a leader in cadmium telluride solar panel technology and production
  • Tellurium is considered to be 8x more rare than gold

The fine print:

  • The United States Department of Energy has publicly stated the urgent need for more tellurium supply for solar energy, stating they see the potential for significant shortfalls in the near future without new sources of production
  • The world’s largest supplier of tellurium is China, which has increased the need for new domestic sources of tellurium

The intrigue:

  • First Tellurium’s flagship Klondike tellurium project in Colorado was previously owned by First Solar, in an effort to secure their own domestic supply of tellurium for their solar panel manufacturing

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