German Scientists Turn On World’s Largest Artificial Sun For The First Time At 3500 Celsius
German scientists have just hit the ignition on what they’re calling the “world’s largest artificial sun,” in a series of experiments 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.Being conducted in Jülich, the setup involves 149 short-arc lamps (film projector spotlights), each with roughly 4,000 times the wattage of average light bulbs. Scientists from the German Aerospace Center (DLR), intend to use Synlight to produce light about 10,000 times more powerful than natural sunlight hitting a single point on Earth.
The idea is that current solar panels are not capable of functioning at maximum efficiency. Synlight points all of its lamps at one spot with temperatures reaching up to 3,500 degrees Celsius, roughly three times hotter as a blast furnace. The research team plans to use the experiment to find cleaner and cheaper ways to generate energy, particularly how to use sunlight to produce hydrogen fuel cells. “We’d need billions of tonnes of hydrogen if we wanted to drive airplanes and cars on CO2-free fuel,” DLR’s Bernard Hoffschmidt told The Guardian earlier in March. “Climate change is speeding up so we need to speed up innovation.”Of course, the experiment also comes with its own risks. “If you went in the room when it was switched on, you’d burn,” Hoffschmidt said. For this reason, the test is being conducted in a sealed radiation chamber. The experiment is also ludicrously expensive, capable of burning through as much electricity as a four-person household would use in a year, in just four hours. But the possible findings Synlight could yield are most certainly worth it.
Aside from renewable energy, Synlight could also be re-purposed in future to test the heat-resistance of rocket components, an issue of steadily escalating importance as space agencies around the world (both private and government-run) prepare for manned missions to Mars and beyond.