At the Australian Synchrotron, electrons are shot out from an electron gun so that they are already travelling at over half the speed of light. They are then sped up further until they nearly reach the speed of light and are shot out into an inner “booster ring” to boost their energy. Once the electrons have gained enough energy, they are shot into an outer ring. Hence the affectionate nickname – the two rings form a doughnut.
The energy we obtain from burning coal today comes from the energy that prehistoric vegetation absorbed from the Sun millions of years ago. But it instead only takes microseconds to convert sunlight directly into electricity. Global electricity consumption continues to accelerate with economic growth and industrial demand. Around 23 trillion kilowatt hours of energy were consumed in the single year of 2018 – the equivalent power needed to turn on 1,800 billion LED bulbs for an hour. To provide our growing population with the level of energy the developed world is used to, we would need to generate 60 trillion kilowatts worldwide. Power plants as we know them cannot satisfy these demands; however, the sunlight energy striking the Earth’s surface in an area the size of Texas alone could provide up to 300 times the total power output of all the power plants in the world. “Solar energy has the greatest potential to fill this energy gap,” says Dr Wallace Wong.