Innovations That Matter

In the future, aircraft may be powered by fuel derived from carbon dioxide | Photo source Pixabay

Process converts CO2 emissions into jet fuel

Agriculture & Energy

A team of researchers has developed a new method for converting carbon dioxide into jet fuel to create a circular carbon economy

Spotted: The global aviation industry produces around 2 per cent of all human-induced carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and around 12 per cent of CO2 emissions from all transportation. Despite attempts to reduce this, aviation emissions are expected to continue to grow. Now, a team of researchers at Oxford University’s KACST – Oxford Petrochemical Research Centre (KOPRC) have developed an experimental process that could turn CO2 into jet fuel. If successful, the process could result in “net zero” emissions from aeroplanes.

Normally, when fossil fuel is burned, the hydrocarbons are converted to CO2 and water and energy are released. The team managed to reverse this process, turning CO2 back into fuel, by adding heat, citric acid, hydrogen and a catalyst made of iron, manganese, and potassium to the carbon dioxide. The catalyst is made of materials that are abundant, and its manufacture requires fewer steps than other methods of synthesizing high value-added chemicals.

The fuel synthesis process, called the organic combustion method, took place in the lab, using CO2 from a canister. However, the researchers hope that the process could be adapted for real-world use by capturing the CO2 from factories or directly from the air. The team says this new method would be cheaper than existing hydrogenation methods for turning hydrogen into fuel, as it uses less electricity.

Although promising, the Oxford method will be competing with other jet fuel alternatives, such as those made from feedstocks that include cooking oil, solid waste, straw, and other biomass. However, Tiancun Xiao, a senior research fellow at Oxford’s Department of Chemistry, and a lead on the research team has said that this process can compete, stating: “The infrastructure of hydrocarbon fuels is already there. This process could help relieve climate change and use the current carbon infrastructure for sustainable development.”

Eliminating emissions from aviation has been a source of a great deal of recent innovation. Springwise has been in the forefront of covering this space, with reports on innovations such as the world’s first hydrogen-powered aircraft powertrain and plans for a fleet of electric seaplanes.

Written By: Lisa Magloff

Email: xiao.tiancun@chem.ox.ac.uk

Website: koprc.kacst.edu.sa

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