Leaching of cadmium and tellurium from cadmium telluride (CdTe) thin-film solar panels under simulated landfill conditions

Adriana Ramos-Ruiz, Jean V. Wilkening, James A. Field, Reyes Sierra-Alvarez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


A crushed non-encapsulated CdTe thin-film solar cell was subjected to two standardized batch leaching tests (i.e., Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) and California Waste Extraction Test (WET)) and to a continuous-flow column test to assess cadmium (Cd) and tellurium (Te) dissolution under conditions simulating the acidic- and the methanogenic phases of municipal solid waste landfills. Low levels of Cd and Te were solubilized in both batch leaching tests (<8.2% and <3.6% of added Cd and Te, respectively). On the other hand, over the course of 30 days, 73% of the Cd and 21% of the Te were released to the synthetic leachate of a continuous-flow column simulating the acidic landfill phase. The dissolved Cd concentration was 3.24-fold higher than the TCLP limit (1 mg L−1), and 650-fold higher than the maximum contaminant level established by the US-EPA for this metal in drinking water (0.005 mg L−1). In contrast, the release of Cd and Te to the effluent of the continuous-flow column simulating the methanogenic phase of a landfill was negligible. The remarkable difference in the leaching behavior of CdTe in the columns is related to different aqueous pH and redox conditions promoted by the microbial communities in the columns, and is in agreement with thermodynamic predictions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-64
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
StatePublished - 2017


  • Cadmium
  • CdTe thin-film solar panel
  • Landfill
  • Leaching
  • Tellurium

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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