Synlight, a three-storey, 350kW array of 149 conical reflectors enclosing xenon short-arc lamps, can generate light 10,000 times that of the solar radiation at the Earth’s surface.
The €3.5 million (£3m) German Aerospace Center project, which is housed in a protective radiation chamber in Jülich, will explore the production of renewable fuel by extracting hydrogen from water vapour. “Making electricity renewable has already been done,” explains research director Bernhard Hoffschmidt. “But in the future there will be many applications for fuels that cannot be replaced with batteries.”
One example is travel. Current battery weight and energy density are incompatible with flight, whereas hydrogen is light and clean. The array began operating in March 2017 and Hoffschmidt hopes it will be a precursor to a system that can amplify the light of the Sun in a carbon-neutral way. “Synlight is only a very big lab,” he says. “In the future, this hydrogen production should be done with mirrors concentrating natural sunlight.”