Energy

World's largest artificial Sun rises in Germany

World's largest artificial Sun...
The Synlight artificial Sun is made of 149 7-kW arc lights
The Synlight artificial Sun is made of 149 7-kW arc lights
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A section of Synlight on display at the international CSP conference in Cape Town, South Africa
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A section of Synlight on display at the international CSP conference in Cape Town, South Africa
The Synlight artificial Sun is made of 149 7-kW arc lights
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The Synlight artificial Sun is made of 149 7-kW arc lights
Cross section of Synlight
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Cross section of Synlight
Synlight was opened on March 23, 2017
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Synlight was opened on March 23, 2017
Preparing an experiment for Synlight
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Preparing an experiment for Synlight
Rendering of the Synlight parabola
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Rendering of the Synlight parabola
DLR and German officials inspect Synlight
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DLR and German officials inspect Synlight
Synlight will be used to develop new alternative energy sources
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Synlight will be used to develop new alternative energy sources

Germany isn't exactly famous for its sunshine, so to help with the country's commitment to investigating renewable energy, the German Space Center (DLR) has constructed the world's largest artificial Sun. Making its public debut today in Jülich, North Rhine-Westphalia, the three-storey "Synlight" electrically-powered sun lamp will be used for various research projects, including developing processes for producing hydrogen fuel using sunlight.

The Sun is one of the greatest potential energy sources available, but developing new technologies to exploit this potential can be hampered because our parent star is a very finicky worker. It refuses to work at night, dislikes cloudy days, doesn't do as well at higher latitudes, and in some parts of the world it disappears entirely for months at a time.

To provide a more reliable and controllable substitute, scientists and engineers have built their own artificial Sun for laboratory work. Instead of using a giant ball of fusing gas 93 million miles away, DLR has built a huge device that works like a backwards parabolic reflector.

Cross section of Synlight
Cross section of Synlight

Where a more conventional spot lamp uses a single powerful light source focused by reflecting it off a parabolic mirror, Synlight is a giant parabola made up of 149 7-kW xenon short-arc lamps capable of delivering 11 MW/m2. These can be adjusted to focus on a single spot measuring 20 x 20 cm (8 x 8 in) in three different test chambers, two of which are exposed to 220 kW of solar radiant power and the third to 280 kW. At maximum setting, the device can deliver 320 kW, or 10,000 times the normal solar radiation experienced on Earth's surface, and temperatures of up to 3,000° C (5,400° F).

According to DLR, these extremely high temperatures are necessary to carry out research on processes that use the Sun to produce solar fuels like hydrogen. Though hydrogen is seen by some as the green fuel of the future because it leaves behind only water when it burns, producing it requires large amounts of energy, which usually comes from burning fossil fuels. DLR hopes the Synlight will help researchers to find a more efficient way to split water into hydrogen and oxygen using the Sun. This has already been accomplished in the laboratory, but has yet to be scaled up to industrial levels.

Synlight will be used to develop new alternative energy sources
Synlight will be used to develop new alternative energy sources

In addition to solar-generated hydrogen, DLR sees Synlight has having other applications, including studies of how materials age under extreme UV rays.

"Synlight fills a gap in the qualification of solar thermal components and processes", says Dr Kai Wieghardt. "The scale of the new artificial Sun is between laboratory systems like DLR's high-performance lamps in Cologne and the large-scale technical facilities such as the solar tower here in Jülich."

The artificial Sun cost a total of €3.5 million (US$3.77 million), most of which was provided by the state of North-Rhine Westphalia, with BMWi contributing €1.1 million (US$1.2 million).

Source: DLR

7 comments
Paul Anthony
I hope they used renewable energy to power that thing
Bob Flint
How much does it cost to run, & how long can it run before overheating?
Mark Uzick
The German program to eliminate carbon based electric production is a fraud: the sun and wind are not always available when they need them but they cannot admit this failure. Instead they cheat by importing carbon based electricity from surrounding countries and PAY other countries to take the unneeded "green" electric power produced at the wrong time which they cannot even give away for free. What a waste! If hydrogen is such a great fuel, then why don't they use this unneeded electric power to produce it? Apparently it's not, but I guess it's good enough to fund more boondoggles so they can pretend to be doing something.
Fretting Freddy the Ferret pressing the Fret
There is good sense in storing excess renewable energy into chemical form, e.g. hydrogen for later use. It's an alternative to storing it in mechanical energy form such as hydroelectric dams by pumping the water up for later use. Except this can be applied everywhere.
Toolman78
I'm curious as to what exactly they expect to use this thing for. The article is pretty vague and I have a hard time imagining a scenario that requires something so large. They say it will speed up development of solar hydrogen production but never really get into why you would need something this large to do tests. Seems like a scam to get research grants.
Ralf Biernacki
The French already have a /solar/ powered furnace at Odeille that can produce higher temperatures (3500°C) without using up power---it works as a solar mirror relay, naturally only on sunny days. The only reason I can think of for making the German version electric rather than solar is weaponization---unlike a solar-powered furnace this one delivers a steerable beam.
DevonWilson
I am convinced that this is the way to produce hydrogen with this artificial sunlight technology.However there is a major problem its too expensive to use fossil fuel or to use the real solar energy and wind these are intermittent sources.So This is what it come to ,there is a new technology known as decentralized hydro generation and it is a 24/7 operation this application is the best and most viable way of producing hydrogen.This system will generate the electricity that you will need to make the artificial sunlight. Ready and waiting.