In a significant step towards reducing emissions, European scientists have created the world’s first renewable jet fuel using only sunlight, water and carbon dioxide.
If proved on a larger scale, the process could provide the holy grail of renewable energy by creating an on-demand supply of fuel for planes, cars and other vehicles.
The achievement was announced by researchers in the Solar-Jet project who have spent the past four years creating a solar reactor that uses focused sunlight to heat up metal oxide.
Water and carbon monoxide are then passed into the reactor at 700°C, where they split up and form a synthetic gas composed of hydrogen and carbon monoxide.
‘The basic idea is to reverse the combustion process,’ explained Patrick Le Clercq, who is responsible for the project at the DLR Institute of Combustion Technology in Stuttgart.
‘What we do is take carbon dioxide and water vapour, and introduce energy to produce fuel.’ The gas is then compressed and sent to Shell, where it is transformed into a hydrocarbon fuel similar to kerosene during a process known as Fischer-Tropsch.
‘This large-scale method is already in widespread use throughout the world and has been certified for aviation purposes,’ said Le Clercq.
‘This means the fuel produced using this technique will not need to undergo any new, extensive testing and certification procedures.’
The project is still at the experimental stage, with only a glassful of jet fuel produced in laboratory conditions, using simulated sunlight.
But scientists believe this process could provide a cheaper and more sustainable supply of renewable energy for transport applications.
‘This technology means we might one day produce cleaner and plentiful fuel for planes, cars and other forms of transport,’ said European Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn.
‘This could greatly increase energy security and turn one of the main greenhouse gases responsible for global warming into a useful resource.’
Finding new, sustainable sources of energy is a priority under Horizon 2020 – the seven-year EU research and innovation programme launched at the start of this year.
Solar-Jet project partners include the German Aerospace Center (DLR), ETH Zürich, Bauhaus Luftfahrt and Shell.
Read more: http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/2014/05/solar-jet-fuel-made-out-thin-air and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2615980/Now-thats-solar-power-Scientists-create-worlds-green-jet-fuel-using-SUNLIGHT.html