As concerns about global warming grow, a new study says it’s possible to turn carbon dioxide (CO2) — one of the greenhouse gases blamed for climate change — into aircraft fuel.
In a study published in the journal “Nature Communications” on Tuesday, a team of researchers including some from Oxford University discovered that by using a new, inexpensive iron-based catalyst, CO2 could be transformed into hydrocarbons in the aviation jet fuel range. Byproducts include light olefins, ethylene, propylene and butenes, according to the study. Out of these, ethylene and propylene can be used to make plastics, according to ScienceNews. (RELATED: 42-Square-Mile Ice Chunk Breaks Off From Greenland Ice Cap)
Today, airplanes pump a lot of climate-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. But someday, carbon dioxide sucked from the atmosphere could be used to power airplanes.
— Science News (@ScienceNews) December 22, 2020
The “organic combustion method” the researchers used for generating jet fuel and the byproducts involved using the catalyst with hydrogen, citric acid and carbon dioxide heated to 662°F. During the process in a pressurized chamber, carbon atoms get pulled apart from oxygen atoms in CO2 molecules. The forced apart carbon atoms then bond with hydrogen atoms, creating hydrocarbon molecules that comprise jet fuel, according to the study.
Past attempts to convert CO2 into fuel reportedly depended on catalysts composed of comparatively expensive substances, like cobalt. They also required several processing steps. However, this study demonstrated that the same effect is attainable with relatively cheaper ingredients, ScienceNews reported.
If CO2 and not oil were used to manufacture jet fuel, the aviation industry’s carbon footprint would decrease, according to ScienceNews. Air travel currently generates up to 12% of all transportation-related CO2 emissions, the outlet further reported.