Synlight produces 10,000 times the intensity of natural sunlight on Earth. Photograph: Caroline Seidel/AP
German scientists are switching on “the world’s largest artificial sun” in the hope that intense light sources can be used to generate climate-friendly fuel.
The Synlight experiment in Jülich, about 19 miles west of Cologne, consists 149 souped-up film projector spotlights and produces light about 10,000 times the intensity of natural sunlight on Earth.
When all the lamps of artificial sun are swivelled to concentrate light on a single spot, the instrument can generate temperatures of around 3,500C – around two to three times the temperature of a blast furnace.
“If you went in the room when it was switched on, you’d burn directly,” said Prof Bernard Hoffschmidt, a research director at the German Aerospace Center, where the experiment is housed in a protective radiation chamber.
The aim of the experiment is to come up with the optimal setup for concentrating natural sunlight to power a reaction to produce hydrogen fuel.
Solar power stations that use mirrors to focus sunlight onto water are already well established. These work by harnessing heat from the sun to produce steam that turns turbines and generates electricity.