Europe

Scientists switch on 'artificial sun' in German lab

  • In this March 21, 2017 photo engineer Volkmar Dohmen stands in front of xenon short-arc lamps in the DLR German national aeronautics and space research center in Juelich, western Germany. The lights are part of an artificial sun that will be used for research purposes.  (Caroline Seidel/dpa via AP)

    In this March 21, 2017 photo engineer Volkmar Dohmen stands in front of xenon short-arc lamps in the DLR German national aeronautics and space research center in Juelich, western Germany. The lights are part of an artificial sun that will be used for research purposes. (Caroline Seidel/dpa via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this March 21, 2017 photo engineer Volkmar Dohmen stands in front of xenon short-arc lamps in the DLR German national aeronautics and space research center in Juelich, western Germany. The lights are part of an artificial sun that will be used for research purposes.  (Caroline Seidel/dpa via AP)

    In this March 21, 2017 photo engineer Volkmar Dohmen stands in front of xenon short-arc lamps in the DLR German national aeronautics and space research center in Juelich, western Germany. The lights are part of an artificial sun that will be used for research purposes. (Caroline Seidel/dpa via AP)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this March 21, 2017 photo engineer Volkmar Dohmen stands in front of xenon short-arc lamps in the DLR German national aeronautics and space research center in Juelich, western Germany. The lights are part of an artificial sun that will be used for research purposes.  (Caroline Seidel/dpa via AP)

    In this March 21, 2017 photo engineer Volkmar Dohmen stands in front of xenon short-arc lamps in the DLR German national aeronautics and space research center in Juelich, western Germany. The lights are part of an artificial sun that will be used for research purposes. (Caroline Seidel/dpa via AP)  (The Associated Press)

Scientists in Germany are flipping the switch on what's being described as "the world's largest artificial sun," hoping it will help shed light on new ways of making climate-friendly fuel.

The "Synlight" experiment in Juelich, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) west of Cologne, consists of 149 giant spotlights normally used for film projectors.

Starting Thursday, scientists from the German Aerospace Center will start experimenting with this dazzling array to try to find ways of tapping the enormous amount of energy that reaches Earth in the form of light from the sun.

One area of research will focus on how to efficiently produce hydrogen, a first step toward making artificial fuel for airplanes.

The experiment uses as much electricity in four hours as a four-person household would in a year.