Producing Jet Fuel Out of Thin Air

#Science

Sat, May 3rd, 2014 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

The Chemistry World website reports that chemists in Europe were able to produce kerosene using carbon dioxide and sunlight. Ideally, the technology would allow turning the greenhouse gas "responsible for climate change" into useful fuels.

Unfortunately, the idea has suffered from two problems. One is that the dissociation of carbon dioxide and water only takes place at very high temperatures, typically above 2200°C. But the other, more difficult, problem is that the syngas cannot be tackled by the Fischer-Tropsch process until all the oxygen is removed as it is dangerously explosive.

Andreas Sizmann at the German thinktank Bauhaus Luftfahrt, together with colleagues in the EU-backed Solar-Jet project, solved the first problem of generating high temperatures by exploiting a high-flux solar simulator at the Swiss university ETH Zurich — one that mimics the output from an actual solar concentrator. Various methods have been tried to effectively remove oxygen from syngas, but the one settled on by the Solar-Jet team was the use of cerium oxide, or ceria. When heated to around 1500°C by the concentrated sunlight, ceria reduces to release oxygen gas, which is piped out. In the next stage, this reduced metal oxide reacts with carbon dioxide and water to produce hydrogen and carbon monoxide — syngas — taking up oxygen in the process. Finally, back in its original form, the ceria can be blasted with concentrated sunlight, reducing it once more and repeating the cycle.

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