The world’s largest artificial sun, called Synlight, by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) was switched on the 23rd of March 2017, with the intention of innovating the production of renewable energy.
Synlight, by the German Aerospace Centre [Image source: DLR]
Motivation for this innovative research
With the ever growing demand for a reliable renewable power source, the Germans are committed to innovating this era of energy transition in order to meet demands.
"We need to expand existing technology in practical ways in order to achieve renewable energy targets, but the energy transition will falter without investments in innovative research, in state-of-the-art technologies and in global lighthouse projects like Synlight”, said Johannes Remmel (DLR).
Though we are currently capable of harnessing the natural sun’s energy through the use of solar panels, a large bulk of its light and power that shines on Earth is still unexploited. One of Synlight’s purpose is to experiment various ways to make use of that wasted energy.
How bright is an artificial sun?
Synlight is housed in a three-storey building in Jülich, Germany and is composed of 149 Xenon short-arc lamps which can produce a scorching heat of up to 3,000 degrees Celsius. So, just how bright are 149 Xenon short-arc lamps? In a large cinema screen, only one Xenon short-arc lamp is used for illumination. The lux intensity of Synlight, when focused on a single 8-inch by 8-inch patch, is about 10,000 times as strong as natural sunlight.
149 Xenon short-arc lamps [Image source: DLR]
Intentions for Synlight
One of Synlight’s main goal is to discover how to efficiently break down water molecules to obtain Hydrogen. All that trouble just to get Hydrogen? Well, Hydrogen is a great source of clean energy as it does not produce toxic CO2 emissions when burned.
The way of breaking down water into its two components –Hydrogen and Oxygen- is through the process of electrolysis using large amounts of electricity. Hydrogen is considered to be a volatile element and to overcome this problem, it can be mixed with carbon monoxide from other renewable sources to make eco-friendly products such as kerosene.
Now, Synlight’s task is to help scientists understand how to harness the sun’s natural light and power in order to avoid exhausting effort and money to produce the electricity needed to break down water and obtain Hydrogen. Having said that, the cost of building Synlight reached to $3.8 million (USD). Though expensive, this kind of technology is extremely beneficial in the long run.
Synlight [Image source: DLR]
The future of renewable energy
Once Synlight manages to reveal to scientists how to effectively harness most of the sun’s energy, our civilization will be closer to obtaining reliable and efficient renewable power. It will allow the world to make its full transition from consuming toxic energy to using clean energy such as Hydrogen.
“Once researchers have mastered hydrogen-making techniques with Synlight's 350-kilowatt array, the process could be scaled up ten-fold on the way to reaching a level fit for industry”, said Hoffschmidt. Although it will take some more years to develop this technology, small steps towards the right direction will surely reap its rewards.