With Synlight, the Institute of Solar Research in Jülich operates the world's largest research facility for the generation of artificial sunlight. The solar simulator achieves 10,000 times the intensity of the Earth's natural solar radiation and is primarily used to develop solar fuels.
The largest artificial Sun in the world
Synlight has a capacity that is greater than the sum of all other comparable installations worldwide. 149 high-power radiators, each with the power of a large cinema projector, are arranged in an area measuring 14 by 16 metres. If the light from the lamps is bundled onto a surface measuring ten by ten centimetres, it reaches 10,000 times the intensity of solar radiation on Earth and temperatures of up to 3000 degrees Celsius.
Synlight has several areas of application. However, the focus is on the development of manufacturing processes for solar fuels, such as hydrogen. With its high energy density, hydrogen is an interesting alternative to the fossil fuels oil, coal and gas: fuel cell vehicles can use it as a fuel; it is the starting product for the production of synthetic fuels, such as aviation gasoline; it can also replace fossil fuels in power plants. Its combustion produces no carbon dioxide, but only pure water.
The aim of the Jülich researchers is to produce CO2-neutral fuels on the basis of solar energy. In special reactors, for example, processes are being tested that use concentrated solar radiation to split water directly into hydrogen and oxygen. In addition, research is being carried out into materials for high-temperature applications, and the facility offers new testing possibilities for aerospace and solar thermal power plants. It enables the qualification of components in real size in three separate irradiation chambers. Scientists at the Institute of Solar Research accompany the users during the preparation and execution of the experiments.