A team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in the UK and one in Saudi Arabia has developed a way to produce jet fuel using carbon dioxide as the main ingredient. In their paper published in the journal Communications about nature, the group describes the process and its efficiency.
As scientists continue to look for ways to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere, they have increasingly focused on certain sectors of activity. One of these sectors is the aviation industry, which accounts for about 12% of transport-related carbon dioxide emissions. Reducing carbon emissions in the airline industry has proved difficult due to the difficulty of installing heavy batteries inside aircraft. In this new effort, researchers have developed a chemical process that can be used to produce carbon-neutral jet fuel.
The researchers used a process called the organic combustion method to convert carbon dioxide from air into jet fuel and other products. It involved the use of an iron catalyst (with the addition of potassium and manganese) along with hydrogen, citric acid and carbon dioxide heated to 350 degrees C. The process forced carbon atoms apart from oxygen atoms in the CO2 molecules, which then bonded to hydrogen atoms, producing the kind of hydrocarbon molecules that comprise liquid jet fuel. The process also led to the creation of water molecules and other products.
Tests showed that in 20 hours, the process turned 38% of the carbon dioxide in a pressure chamber into jet fuel and other products. Aircraft fuel accounted for 48% of the products produced – the others were water, propylene and ethylene. Researchers also note that the use of this fuel in aircraft would be carbon neutral, as its combustion would release the same amount of carbon dioxide that was used to manufacture it.
Researchers also claim that their process is less expensive than other methods used to produce fuel for aircraft, such as those that turn hydrogen and water into fuel – primarily because it uses less electricity. They also point out that conversion systems could be installed in plants that currently emit a lot of carbon dioxide, such as coal-fired power plants.
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Benzhen Yao et al. Conversion of carbon dioxide into jet fuel using a Fe-Mn-K catalyst synthesized with organic combustion, Communications about nature (2020). DOI: 10.1038 / s41467-020-20214-z
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