What’s been around since the ’70s, has more mirrors than Studio 54, and generates more heat than John Travolta dancin’-Dancin’-DANCIN’ in a polyester pimp suit? The world’s biggest solar furnace obviously.
Located in Font-Romeu-Odeillo-Via, high in the Pyrenees Mountains in the Basque region of the French/Spanish border, this solar furnace employs a total of 10,000 mirrors to reflect sunlight into a gigantic concave hemisphere (pictured above) which then focuses the energy onto a single point, raising the temperature in an area slightly larger than a tea kettle to about 3482C (roughly half of the estimated temperature of the Earth’s core).
This energy is used in numerous ways, including the generation of electricity via a steam turbine, making hydrogen fuel, testing re-entry materials for space vehicles, or performing high-temperature metallurgic experiments. The massive maximum temperatures Odeillo achieves even allow for the production of carbon nanotubes and zinc nanoparticles via solar induced sublimation.
The concept of focusing the Sun’s rays for our own purposes is not a new one. Since before the time of the Greeks and Romans, people have been manipulating sunlight. Archimedes purportedly used a “burning lens” to set an entire Roman fleet alight. Vikings are known to have used “Visby lenses” ground from frock crystal as far bask as the 9th Century. The Celts and even the Egyptians supposedly employed lensing technology as well.
Monster Machines is all about the most exceptional machines in the world, from massive gadgets of destruction to tiny machines of precision, and everything in between.