LONDON, March 23 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Scientists
in Germany are testing what they describe as "the world's
largest artificial sun," which they hope could pave the way
toward creating hydrogen to use as a green fuel.
The system called Synlight - being developed at the German
Aerospace Center near Cologne - is an array of 149 bright film
projector spotlights. They produce light about 10,000 times
stronger than typical sunlight.
The test aims to find new ways to create hydrogen to fuel
vehicles such as cars and planes, explained Bernhard
Hoffschmidt, the director of the Center's Institute for Solar
"We're essentially bringing the sun to the Earth, by
re-creating its radiation in a lab," he told the Thomson Reuters
Foundation in a telephone interview.
"We orientate all lamps to focus on one point, which can
generate temperatures of over 3,000 degrees Celsius."
The operation produces water vapour that can be split into
hydrogen and oxygen, Hoffschmidt said.
"The hydrogen created can then be used to power airplanes
and cars (with) carbon-dioxide-free fuel," he said.
Countries are under increasing pressure to reduce carbon
dioxide emissions and hope to use excess power generated by
renewable sources such as wind or solar to create hydrogen from
water through a process called electrolysis.
Synlight itself consumes a large amount of energy, however,
"In four hours the system uses about as much electricity as
a four-person household in a year. Our goal is to eventually use
actual sunlight to make hydrogen, rather than artificial light."
He also acknowledged there was "a long way to go" before the
method could be scaled up for commercial use, which he said
would require billions of tonnes of hydrogen.
"I think commercial use will only really be possible when
societies and governments realise that we cannot burn any more
fossil fuels," Hoffschmidt said.
He added, however, that global events like recent U.N.
climate talks in Morocco in November provided welcome momentum
in the fight against climate change, and were a sign that
"things are starting to change".
(Reporting by Zoe Tabary @zoetabary, editing by Laurie Goering.
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