German scientists have just switched on what they’re calling the “World’s Largest Artificial Sun,” , which can be used to develop better solar production technology
Assembled earlier this year, ‘Synlight’ is an experimental setup designed to replicate the amount of solar energy the Earth is blasted with daily, in an effort to improve photovoltaic cells and other renewable sources of energy.
How Artificial Sun Works
Located in Jülich, Germany, and operated by the German Aerospace Center (DLR), “Synlight” uses 149 xenon lamps to recreate the light from the Sun onto a single point, vaporizing water and producing hydrogen and oxygen.
The huge machine towers 14 meters (45 feet) high and 16 meters (52 feet) across, and produces temperatures of up to 3,000°C (5,400°F) focused on a single spot 20 by 20 centimeters (8 by 8 inches). This particular test lasted just 15 to 20 minutes, producing a tiny amount of hydrogen, but the lamps can theoretically be run continuously for hours or even a day.
These lamps have an output of 350 kilowatts, and supposedly produces light that is 10,000 times more powerful than natural sunlight hitting a single point on Earth.
When focused onto a metal sheet in a small reactor device, it splits water up into hydrogen and oxygen.
In Pursuit of Renewable Energy
Hydrogen is an incredibly useful element, being a source of fuel with no carbon emissions. But it does not occur naturally
Synlight is a proof of concept for now, with the lamps using as much electricity in four hours as a four-person household would do in a year. The heat they generate is enough to incinerate a person if you were standing in the same room. But the goal in the future is to replicate this process using sunlight, possibly scaling up the operation to produce usable amounts of hydrogen.
“We’d need billions of tonnes of hydrogen if we wanted to drive airplanes and cars on CO2-free fuel.. Climate change is speeding up so we need to speed up innovation.” DLR’s Bernard Hoffschmidt told The Guardian.
In the future, the facility may be used to test the durability of rocket components and space travel parts when blasted by solar radiation. So Synlight could not only help us deal with our energy crisis here on Earth but also help us explore worlds far beyond our own, too