The German town of Juelich has a brand new artificial sun, and it is the most powerful one ever created. The German Aerospace Center has created a grid of 149 xenon short-arc spotlights, and the goal is to simulate the sun’s natural light and make hydrogen.
Germany can get pretty dark in the winter months, but don’t try to get a tan with this new sun. It will burn your skin off and reduce your bones to cinders. The light from all the lamps is focused onto a 20cm by 20cm square, and it will create temperatures up to 3,000 degrees Celsius.
The scientists say that this apparatus will allow them to study new ways to create hydrogen, thought I suspect that they may use it to fry insects as well.
Hydrogen is a sought after source of fuel, but producing it efficiently has proved elusive. Researchers hope to skip over the process of electrolysis, and manufacture hydrogen directly with sunlight. This would make hydrogen a much cheaper form of fuel, and create it easily.
The team that is working on this method of hydrogen production say it can be scaled up to commercial levels, but it will take a decade or more. Ultimately their goal is to replace the Synlight array with sun light, but this process is expected to take some time.
The Synlight array cost 3.5 million euros, and uses enough power in four hours to provide electricity to a four person household for a year. But if they can get this system working, it will be a great way to make hydrogen.
While hydrogen isn’t a perfect fuel source, if we could make it cheaply with sun light it would make a great substitute for petrochemicals. Just don’t put your finger in the square when the Synlight is turned on.