Yes, there’s such thing as an artificial sun, and yes, it’s as cool as it sounds! It’s the brainchild of German scientists who started the project in order to find fuel sources that don’t do harm to the environment. What does a fake sun have to do with finding fuel? We’ll get to that, but first, here’s what you need to know about the creation of this structure.
The sunny apparatus is called the “Synlight” and it’s made up of 149 spotlights set up like a honeycomb. The structure uses “xenon short-arc lamps” to imitate natural light from the sun. Scientists from the German Aerospace Center believe they can produce the equivalent of 10,000 times the amount of solar radiation that would normally shine on the same surface when the power of Synlight is focused on an 8”x8” spot. Synlight can heat up to 3,000° Fahrenheit, which is about 7,000° less than the surface of the Sun, but still, that’s pretty hot! The cost of this snazzy artificial sun? $3.8 billion.
As strange as it sounds, this fake sun is being used to test new ways to make hydrogen fuel. This is important because hydrogen doesn’t produce carbon emissions when burned, meaning it doesn’t contribute to global warming. Hydrogen is rare to find on Earth, but scientists hope they can manufacture it with Synlight’s help. The intense energy from the artificial sun can help break down water into its two components (that’s hydrogen and water if your basic chemistry knowledge is escaping you at the moment) and therefore make hydrogen available. This has been done before on a much smaller scale, but with Synlight the process can be “scaled up ten-fold”.
The hope is that the combination of hydrogen created by Synlight and carbon monoxide created by renewable sources will make groundbreaking advancements in the creation of “eco-friendly kerosene” for airplanes and cars. An efficient and green fuel that does no harm to the planet? Count us in!