Science

This alien-like metal may one day power your electronics

Bismuth is most commonly known as a main ingredient in Pepto Bismol — less commonly known as bismuth subsalicylate. It is a heavy, brittle metal that forms colorful geometric crystals when melted and then slowly cooled. . And someday soon, it might be used to help power your electronics.

Robert Hoye, a Scientist and lecturer in the department of materials at Imperial College London, are using bismuth-based compounds in photovoltaics — materials that convert light into energy. Bismuth has unique electronic properties that not only make it a good source for solar cells, but also make it ideal for use indoors, where traditional photovoltaics do not perform well. According to Hoye, this means it could one day replace the need for batteries in billions of indoor electronics such as home sensors and health monitors.

Beside its ability to absorb light, bismuth also makes an ideal battery replacement because it’s completely nontoxic. It is harmless to the people and the environment unlike other metals. If it ends up in a landfill, it won’t leach toxic metals into the soil and water, which is a real issue with today’s electronics, which contain metals like lead, cadmium and tellurium.

Verge Science brought some raw bismuth to Staten Island’s MakerSpace to grow some other worldly crystals, and Robert Hoye spoke about the exciting future possibilities for this one-of-a-kind and often underappreciated element. See what they discovered in their most recent video above.

If it is a success, then Bismuth can be used in battery replacement which could save many metals that are on the verge of extinction.

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