Scientists looking to test the impact of solar radiation on their materials don’t need to send them to space. Instead they can pay a visit to the new solar simulator designed by researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, which burns brighter than 20,000 suns, Gizmodo reports.

The light system at the Laboratory of Renewable Energy Science and Engineering in Switzerland is described in the journal Optics Express [PDF]. It consists of a seven-foot-wide cluster of 18 lamps lit by Xenon bulbs. When the beams of light converge, the luminous flux measures in at 21.7 MW m-2, or the equivalent of 21,700 suns. (That’s bright, but not as bright as some machines that have been built in the past: a particle accelerator in Berkeley, California is more luminous than a billion suns).

Such a powerful simulator could have numerous applications, like testing out solar power equipment and crafts built for space travel. A duplicate of the machine in Australia is accessible to researchers on an open-source basis. The energy of 20,000 suns likely isn’t a requirement for most projects—thankfully, the output level can be adjusted.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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