The sun never sets in Jülich, Germany now that scientists created the world’s largest artificial sun at the German Aerospace Center (DLR). The massive wall of light consists of 149 xenon short-arc spotlights which are the same spotlights used on movie sets. It produces light about 10,000 times the intensity of natural sunlight on Earth – all pointing to a tiny 8-inch by 8-inch patch at a temperature of 3,500C.
“If you went in the room when it was switched on, you’d burn directly,” Professor Bernard Hoffschmidt, research director at the DLR, told The Guardian.
The tool is part of the Synlight project and scientists hope they can use it to create eco-friendly hydrogen fuel by splitting water molecules into individual hydrogen and oxygen atoms. The idea is to angle Synlight so it reflects the natural light of the sun to create environmentally friendly fuel, making the whole process completely carbon neutral.
But that’s in the future. For now, Synlight is racking up a massive electric bill to keep it powered on. Four hours of operation consumes as much electricity as a four-person household in a year. It also cost a lot to build, coming in at $3.8 million.
And Synlight isn’t the only project using mirrors to harness the energy of the sun. Countries around the world are investing into concentrated solar power technology which redirects and points natural sunlight to power turbines and generate fuel.
Spain is the leader in concentrated solar power technology with most of the world’s CSP capacity (2.3 of 4.8GW in 2015) stored there. Karsten Lemmer, DLR Executive Board Member, said “Renewable energies will be the mainstay of global power supply in the future”. The fuel produced by these stations and tools like Synlight could one day go into fueling our cars and planes with cleaner burning gases.