German scientists have created the ‘world’s largest artificial sun’ called ‘Synlight’, which is actually a giant honeycomb-like setup made out of 149 spotlights. The setup is situated in Juelich, about 30 kilometres west of Cologne.
The scientists hope that this artificial sun may help throw some light on new ways of producing climate-friendly fuel. Xenon short-arc lamps that are normally found in cinemas are used by Synlight which help in simulating natural sunlight which is often scarce in Germany at this time of the year.
Scientists from the German Aerospace Center, or DLR, will manage to churn out the equivalent of 10,000 times the amount of solar radiation that would normally shine on the same surface by focussing the entire array on a single 20-by-20 centimetre (8x8 inch) spot.
According to Bernhard Hoffschmidt, the director of DLR’s Institute for Solar Research, the key to test novel ways of making hydrogen is creating such furnace-like conditions with temperatures of up to 3,000 degrees Celsius.
Since hydrogen doesn’t produce carbon emissions on burning and hence doesn’t contribute to global warming, many consider it as the fuel of the future.
However, hydrogen doesn’t occur naturally, hence is has to be produced by splitting water into its two components other being oxygen. This process currently needs large amounts of electricity.
Researchers hope to evade the electricity stage by tapping into the enormous amount of energy that reaches Earth in the form of light from the sun.
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Hoffschmidt said the dazzling display is designed to take experiments done in smaller labs to the next level, adding that once researchers have mastered hydrogen-making techniques with Synlight’s 350-kilowatt array, the process can be scaled up ten-fold on the way to reaching a level fit for industry.
The goal is to eventually use actual sunlight rather than the artificial light produced at the Juelich experiment, which requires as much electricity in four hours as a four-person household would use in a year.
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Hoffschmidt conceded that hydrogen isn’t without its problems for one thing it’s incredibly volatile but by combining it with carbon monoxide produced from renewable sources, scientists would, for example, be able to make eco-friendly kerosene for the aviation industry.
(With inputs from PTI)