Yesterday the “world’s largest artificial sun” was unveiled in Juelich, Germany.
The honeycomb-like contraption is made up of 149 xenon short-arc lamps known as Synlight, which are used to simulate the sun’s natural light. These lights, 4,000 times the wattage of the average light bulb, are also used in cinemas.
If all 149 spotlights are focused on a 20-by-20 centimetre area, scientists at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) could produce the equivalent of 10,000 times the amount of solar radiation that would normally be produced by the sun on that same area.
But don't be rushing to see it anytime soon... If a person were to go into the room with the device turned on, they’d “burn directly,” director of DRL Bernhard Hoffschmidt said.
The experiment cost nearly $5m (£4m) to build and requires as much electricity to run in four hours as an average four-person household uses in a year.
Hoffschmidt said scientists will also be able to create temperatures up to 3,000 degrees Celsius which helps to enable testing new ways of making hydrogen by triggering a reaction to produce hydrogen fuel. Scientists hope to find a method to produce this same reaction from natural sunlight.
Many experts consider hydrogen, the most common element in the universe but rare on Earth, to be a sustainable source of energy as it does not produce carbon emissions when burned.
If all goes well with the hydrogen experiments, in about a decade the process could be scaled up to be used in industries.
“We’d need billions of tonnes of hydrogen if we wanted to drive aeroplanes and cars on CO2-free fuel,” Hoffschmidt said. “Climate change is speeding up so we need to speed up innovation.”
The facility may also eventually be used to test the durability of space travel equipment and parts when blasted by solar radiation.