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
The Centers for Disease Control has emphasized that washing hands with soap and water is one of the most effective measures we can take in preventing the spread of COVID-19. However, millions of Americans in some of the most vulnerable communities face the prospect of having their water shut off during the lockdowns, according to The Guardian.
Aerial photos of the Sierra Nevada — the long mountain range stretching down the spine of California — showed rust-colored swathes following the state's record-breaking five-year drought that ended in 2016. The 100 million dead trees were one of the most visible examples of the ecological toll the drought had wrought.
Now, a few years later, we're starting to learn about how smaller, less noticeable species were affected.
Natthawat / Moment / Getty Images
Disinfectants and cleaners claiming to sanitize against the novel coronavirus have started to flood the market, raising concerns for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which threatened legal recourse against retailers selling unregistered products, according to The New York Times.
The global coronavirus pandemic has thrown our daily routine into disarray. Billions are housebound, social contact is off-limits and an invisible virus makes up look at the outside world with suspicion. No surprise, then, that sustainability and the climate movement aren't exactly a priority for many these days.
By Molly Matthews Multedo
Livestock farming contributes to global warming, so eating less meat can be better for the climate.