The world’s biggest “artificial sun” is currently being built in the German town of Jülich, as part of an attempt to discover more efficient ways to harness solar power. Dubbed as Synlight, this spectacular system is made up of a large collection of incredibly-powerful film projector spotlights that work together to produce a glow nearly 10,000 times brighter than the sunlight incident on Earth.
The work of a team of researchers from the German Aerospace Center (DLR), Synlight is touted as the world’s largest manmade sun, containing a total of 149 industrial-strength spotlights with an average wattage approximately 4,000 times that of a regular electric bulb. According to the scientists, the intensity of the light emanated by the system is around 10,000 times greater than that of the natural, incoming sunlight. When focused on a particular spot, light from the 149 spotlights can generates extremely high temperatures of up to 6,332 degrees Fahrenheit (or 3,500 degree Celsius).
Given its massive scale, the contraption comes with a number of risks as well as high costs. For safety purposes, it is actually housed inside a special protective chamber. When switched on for four hours, the spotlights use up the same amount of electricity as a household of four’s total yearly consumption. Speaking about the setup, Bernard Hoffschmidt from the German Aerospace Center said:
If you went in the room when it was switched on, you’d burn directly.
Despite the plethora of renewable energy technologies flooding the market in recent years, efficiency still remains a major concerning, especially in the case of solar energy. At present, only a small percentage of the incident sunlight is harvested successfully. The untapped energy usually goes to waste. With Synlight, the researchers are hoping to uncover new and improved techniques of capturing sun’s energy.
One of the primary aims of the project is to find an efficient way to utilize solar power for driving chemical reactions that result in the production of clean, zero-pollution hydrogen fuel. Potentially, Synlight could be used to determine if spacecraft components can hold up against harsh solar radiation. Hoffschmidt added:
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.