The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
World's Largest Artificial Sun Now Shining in Germany
The world's largest artificial sun is now shining at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in the town of Jülich. On Wednesday, German scientists switched on project "Synlight" to test ways to make carbon-free fuel.
The honeycomb-like setup involves 149 individually adjustable xenon short-arc lamps that can produce about 10,000 times the intensity of the natural solar radiation on Earth's surface. To illustrate how powerful the lamps are, a single one can light a projector for a large cinema.
"We use the lamps because their light is the most similar to the sun," project manager Kai Wieghardt explained to Spiegel.
If all the lamps are targeted to a single spot, Synlight can produce temperatures of up to 3,500 degrees Celsius or 5,432 degrees Fahrenheit.
The goal of the experiment, as the Guardian reported, "is to come up with the optimal setup for concentrating natural sunlight to power a reaction to produce hydrogen fuel."
The 350-kilowatt array is housed in a specially constructed facility in Germany.DLR
You've probably heard of concentrated solar before. Concentrated solar facilities, like the ones being built in Nevada, Dubai and Morocco, involve a large field of movable mirrors that can harness sunlight and power a steam turbine to generate electricity.
Likewise, Synlight researchers are "investigating the possibility that a similar setup could be used to power a reaction to extract hydrogen from water vapor, which could then be used as a fuel source for airplanes and cars," according to the Guardian.
Hydrogen fuel—which has zero pollutant emissions and no greenhouse gases—has been touted as the fuel of the future. Hydrogen is produced by electrolysis, the process of splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen, and requires large amounts of electricity. Hydrogen fuel projects are seen as cost-prohibitive on a commercial scale.
Or, as DLR put it, Synlight researchers will be focusing on so-called "solar fuels."
The Jülich experiment currently uses artificial light and requires a lot of electricity to operate. Running the array for only four hours sucks up as much electricity that a four-person household would use in a whole year. The project was also very expensive, costing $3.8 million to build.
But the researchers hope to eventually use actual sunlight to produce hydrogen. Bernhard Hoffschmidt, director of DLR's Institute for Solar Research, explained to AP that once researchers have mastered hydrogen-making techniques with Synlight, the process can be scaled up ten-fold on the way to reaching a level fit for industry.
Although Hoffschmidt noted that hydrogen can be incredibly volatile, by combining it with carbon monoxide produced from renewable sources, scientists could potentially make eco-friendly kerosene for the aviation industry.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
On Friday, Seal Rescue Ireland released Sesame the seal into the ocean after five months of rehabilitation at the Seal Rescue Ireland facility. Watch the release on EcoWatch's Facebook.
By Jordan Davidson
Guinness is joining the fight against single use plastic. The brewer has seen enough hapless turtles and marine life suffering from the scourge of plastic.
At EcoWatch, our team knows that changing personal habits and taking actions that contribute to a better planet is an ongoing journey. Earth Day, happening on April 22, is a great reminder for all of us to learn more about the environmental costs of our behaviors like food waste or fast fashion.
To offer readers some inspiration this Earth Day, our team rounded up their top picks for films to watch. So, sit back and take in one of these documentary films this Earth Day. Maybe it will spark a small change you can make in your own life.
People of all ages are spending more of their day looking at their phones, computers and television screens, but parents now have another reason for limiting how much screen time their children get — it could lead to behavioral problems.
Rapper and Comedian Lil Dicky Recruits 30+ Artists Including Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber for Earth Day Video
From Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones to Aquaman, some of actor Jason Momoa's most iconic roles have been linked to the beard he has worn since 2012.
But on Wednesday he decided it was "time to make a change," for himself and for the planet. A video posted on Instagram showed him beginning to shave his beard in a bid to raise awareness about plastic pollution, the Huffington Post reported.
Beloved nature broadcaster Sir David Attenborough narrated a BBC documentary on climate change Thursday that Guardian reviewer Rebecca Nicholson said aimed to encourage action around climate the way that Attenborough's Blue Planet II galvanized the world against single-use plastic.