On March 23, 2017, scientists in Germany tested the world’s largest artificial ‘sun’, named Synlight. In this experiment, 149 powerful short arc lamps were used and put together at the German Aerospace Centre (DLR). At the touch of a button, the researchers in Germany, tested out the world’s biggest solar simulator, hence simulating the ‘sunlight’.
According to the researchers, the aim of the experiment is to improve the efficiency of production of hydrogen gas or other solar related fuel sources. Hydrogen is considered by many scientists as the fuel of the future. This is because while burning carbon based fuels like coal and petroleum releases carbon monoxide among other harmful gases, burning hydrogen does not result in the emission of any harmful gases. If we remember the science lecture in secondary school, you might be familiar with the term electrolysis.
Just to jog your memory, electrolysis is a process in which electricity is passed through water to separate the two elements that constitute water, which are hydrogen and oxygen. This process requires a huge amount of electricity as the temperature that need to be attained are exceptionally high. To tackle this problem, the scientists devised a method to use the energy from light to get to that temperature.
This artificial sun Synlight is focused on an area of 10cm x 10cm which is very small in comparison. All the light and radiation when focused to this small area can generate heat up to the temperature of 3000 degree Celsius. This device has been given the name ‘Synlight’. It can produce light radiation up to 10000 times the light that reached from the actual sun to the surface of the earth.
Apart from this, the Synlight technology has a wide array of implementations. Most researchers trying to develop the fuel of the future, might use this technology in the production and research process. This technology is not dependent on weather conditions and is hoped to help in a faster development towards manufacturing of solar energy based fuels.
According to Johannes Remmel, who is a German environment minister, it was essential to invent newer and better technologies if the world is to achieve the target of renewable energies.
Karsten Lemmer, a DLR Board member stated that fuels and combustible substances that are obtained by using solar power have immense potential of long term storage and applications in the production of raw materials for the productions of various industrial and essential chemicals.
As there are two sides to every coin, this technology too is not all good. The electricity required to run this equipment for four hours is so much that the same amount of energy can run a household of four people for about a year. According to the researchers, in the long run, they are planning to use the radiation from the actual sun to achieve the desired temperatures which of course would be much more efficient and cost friendly. All these efforts are made in order to tackle the various environmental problems like global warming and constantly lowering amounts of fossil fuels.