For those who continue to ask (myself included) about the future of cleanly producing hydrogen, we put a spotlight on this March 23 press release about the development of this artificial sun in Germany.
Sun at the touch of a button
Thursday 23 March 2017
- The largest artificial sun in the world is located at the DLR site in Jülich.
- 149 High-power emitters can generate a multiplicity of solar radiation.
- The development of solar fuel production is progressing faster due to weather independence.
The largest artificial sun in the world has appeared in Jülich since 23 March 2017. Johannes Remmel, the North Rhine-Westphalian Minister of the Environment, put the new research facility ” Synlight ” into operation, together with Dr. Georg Menzen (BMWi) and Prof. Dr. Karsten Lemmer, Member of the Board for Energy and Transport of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) . The plant will be used, among other things, to develop production processes for solar fuels such as hydrogen.
Contribution to the Energiewende
NRW’s Environment Minister Johannes Remmel emphasized the importance of research for the energy sector: “In order to achieve the targets for the expansion of renewable energy, we need the practical expansion of existing technology Synlight will keep the energy turnaround. ”
In the three-storey Synlight building, a total of 149 xenon short arc lamps emit. For comparison: in a large cinema the screen is irradiated by a single xenon short arc lamp. The scientists can focus the radiators on an area of 20 by 20 centimeters. If the radiation of the lamps with an output of up to 350 kilowatts occurs there, it has the up to 10,000 times the intensity of the solar radiation on the earth. The lamps focus on temperatures up to 3,000 degrees Celsius. These temperatures are used by researchers to produce fuels such as hydrogen.
Hydrogen is considered the fuel of the future because it burns without emitting carbon dioxide. The production of hydrogen by splitting the world’s available raw material water into its constituents hydrogen and oxygen requires a large amount of energy. This can be provided by the sun. “Renewable energies will form the backbone of global energy supply in the future,” says DLR CEO Lemmer, emphasizing the relevance of intensive research into alternative energy generation. “Solar generated fuels, fuels and fuels offer great potential for long-term storage, the production of chemical raw materials and the reduction of CO2 emissions.” Synlight is giving our research in this area backwind. ”
Faster development under laboratory conditions
Since the sun is rare and irregular in Central Europe, an artificial sun is the medium of choice for the development of production processes for solar fuels. With the Synlight tests, bad weather periods and fluctuating radiation values can not make the tests or their evaluation more difficult or slow down. With its infrastructure, including the Solarturm Jülich and the scientific environment, Jülich also offers ideal conditions for innovative developments in solar technology. A shift from research facilities to more sun-drenched regions promises, at first glance, more favorable conditions, since even there the sun never shines with the same intensity. But that is important for fast innovation cycles: constant test conditions, which can be reproduced quickly and exactly.
The scientists at the DLR Institute for Solar Research have already succeeded in producing hydrogen with the aid of solar radiation years ago , but at a laboratory scale. In order for such processes to become of interest to industry, the scale must be significantly increased. This is precisely the goal of Synlight. Research is focused on solar fuel production, but the new plant can be used for many other applications. Since the spectrum of the UV radiation is similar to that of the sun, aging processes of materials can also be shown in a timed manner. An interesting aspect, both for space and industry.
“Synlight fills a gap in the qualification of solarthermal components and processes,” explains Dr. Kai Wieghardt, who has played a key role in the construction of the plant. “The new artificial sun is between lab-scale facilities, such as the high-power spotlight at the DLR in Cologne and the large-scale systems such as the solar tower here in Jülich.”
For the experiments, three irradiation chambers are available to users of the facility. Depending on the requirements, the necessary lamps are bundled or surface-aligned to the test setup. With the three chambers, several experiments can be prepared at the same time and the system can be optimally utilized.
The DLR Institute for Solar Research has built the research facility in a building constructed by the Jülich Technology Center over the last two years and rented it to Synlight for the long term. The state of North-Rhine Westphalia supported the project with 2.4 million euros, about 70 percent of the total sum of 3.5 million euros. The difference of 1.1 million euros was provided by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi).