Scientists Use Water, Sunlight And CO2 To Develop Futuristic Jet Fuel


Taking carbon dioxide, water and sunlight as only inputs, researchers in Switzerland have developed carbon-neutral, sustainable versions of diesel and aviation fuel. This is the first time that fuel has been produced in a power generator rather than a lab. The team started scaling up their design in 2017 and built a solar fuel-production plant at IMDEA Energy Institute in Spain. 

As per Newsweek, researchers informed that solar-made kerosene, or jet fuel, is fully compatible with the existing way fuel is stored, distributed and used in a plane’s engine. It can also blend with fossil-derived kerosene, the team stated. 

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Further, explaining the project, they said that the production plant in Madrid consists of 169 sun-tracking reflective panels that redirect and concentrate solar radiation into a solar reactor on top of a tower. Then, the concentrated solar energy drives oxidation-reduction (redox) reaction cycles in the solar reactor, which contains a porous structure made of ceria – a white or yellow heavy powder. 

The ceria then converts water and carbon dioxide injected into the reactor into syngas, which is made of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The syngas is sent into a gas-to-liquid converter where it is finally processed into liquid hydrocarbon fuels that include kerosene and diesel. 

“We are the first to demonstrate the entire thermochemical process chain from water and CO2 to kerosene in a fully-integrated solar tower system,” said study corresponding author Professor Aldo Steinfeld, as per the outlet. 

“With our solar technology, we have shown that we can produce synthetic kerosene from water and CO2 instead of deriving it from fossil fuels,” he added. 

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Today, airplanes are reportedly responsible for around five percent of global emissions. Their engines run on kerosene or jet fuel – a liquid hydrocarbon fuel that derives from crude oil. No clean and effective way of flying planes exists in today’s world. Therefore, producing carbon-neutral aviation fuels has become a global energy challenge.

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