Heard About The World’s Largest Artificial Sun- Synlight?

In a giant honeycomb shaped setup rests the world’s largest artificial Sun, officially called as Synlight designed by the scientist at German Aerospace Center (DLR). It started shining on 23 March 2017 at the DLR facility in a German town Julich. The facility intends to develop production processes for solar fuels, including hydrogen, independent of the weather conditions.

Other than this, here are the 10 most important and interesting things to know about the Artificial Sun Synlight:

Q1. How much does the artificial Sun project cost?

The artificial Sun project costs €3.5 million, approximately 70% of which has been assisted by the state of North-Rhine Westphalia and the difference of 1.1 million euro has been provided by the BMWi.

Visitors at the artificial sun Synlight centre
Second from left is the Director of the DLR Institute for Solar Research- Bernhard Hoffschmidt. (Credit: DLR)

Q2. What does this artificial Sun consist of?

Located in a three-story Synlight building is the artificial Sun which consists of 149 Xenon short-arc lamps. It’s interesting to note that only one of these Xenon short-arc lamps is used in large cinemas to illuminate the screen and this single lamp emits 4,000 times more light than that emitted by an average bulb.

Cross section of Synlight
Cross Section of Synlight – Aritifical Sun. (Credit- DLR)

Q3. How does Synlight the artificial Sun work?

Three radiation chambers are available for experiments. Based on the requirements, the radiation can be directed towards each chamber. “To do this, the necessary lamps are targeted at single target points or the wider surface of the test system, depending on the requirements. This enables simultaneous preparation of several experiments and optimum utilization of the facility,” as mentioned in the DLR reports.

Preparation of an experimental setup- Artificial Sun
They carry out tests in three chambers. Water flows through this reactor to extract hydrogen using the energy of the concentrated light. (Credit- DLR)

Q4. What is the maximum temperature that Synlight the artificial Sun can attain?

Within the area of 20 by 20 centimeters, the scientists can focus these ‘radiators’ on any target point where the temperatures can reach up to 3000 degree Celsius, which is two to three times as hot as the heat generated by a blast furnace.

Sun within four walls-Artificial Sun
In Julich is the building that houses Synlight. In the grey hall behind office and workshops is the 15-metre-high experimental facility. (Credit- DLR)

Q5. What damage can Synlight cause?

Prof Bernard Hoffschmidt at DLR told the Guardian, “If you went in the room when it was switched on, you’d burn directly,”.

Q6. How intense are the radiations of the artificial Sun?

Synlight’s 350-kilowatt array can result in 10,000 times the intensity of the solar radiation at Earth’ surface when targeted at a point.

Spectators surprised to see the gigantic Artificial Sun Facility
Spectators surprised to see the gigantic Artificial Sun Facility. (Credit- DLR)

Q7. What is the use of the artificial Sun?

Researchers plan to use these extreme temperatures to manufacture fuels, including hydrogen.

Q8. How much energy does the artificial Sun use?

This artificial Sun currently uses a vast amount of energy. A report by DLR said that four hours of operation consumes as much electricity as a four-person household in a year.

Inspection of the Artificial Sun
Technicians inspecting the seven-kilowatt xenon short arc lamps in the high-power light sources. (Credits- DLR)

Q9. What is the objective/purpose of Synlight?

The objective of the Synlight experiment is to investigate the possibility to create a similar setup that could power a reaction to extract hydrogen from water vapor, which could further act as a fuel source for airplanes and cars and other industrial applications.

The world's largest artificial Sun
Synlight consists of 149 high-power light sources. Each source is individually controllable, which allows various configurations and temperatures in the focal point- even in three simultaneous experiments. (Credit- DLR)

Q10. What was the need of another artificial Sun when we have the actual Sun?

As the Sun never shines with a constant intensity at any place, therefore, the preferred choice of the scientists for developing a production process for solar fuels is the the artificial Sun.

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