The beginning of electric aviation has arrived, but it will take many years for ordinary environmentalists to achieve internal fly on a fully electric long-haul jet.
At the same time, scientists are working to make the commercial aircraft we already have more sustainable, and one of the best ways to do this is to change the fuel they consume.
Instead of spitting out carbon dioxide (CO2Researchers at the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom have now proposed a way to the atmosphere that allows aircraft to capture this gas from the air and burn it for fuel.
There is no need to create a new fleet of electric aircraft, which will require a huge leap in battery storage technology. This new approach will enable the world to reduce the carbon footprint of faster flights. That is, if it turns out that it can work on a larger scale.
In the laboratory, researchers can capture and transform gaseous carbon monoxide2 Use cheap iron-based catalysts to directly make jet fuel.
The amount of liquid fuel produced is still too small to power an actual aircraft, but if fossil fuel can be captured in a high enough amount from the air, converted into energy with high enough efficiency and then discharged, then the aircraft can theoretically fly Carbon neutral.
The author writes: “This catalytic process provides an attractive way to not only reduce carbon dioxide emissions, but also to produce renewable and sustainable jet fuel.”
“Recovering carbon dioxide as a carbon source for fuels and high-value chemicals provides tremendous potential for the aviation and petrochemical industries.”
Generally, when fossil fuels are burned, the hydrocarbons contained in them are converted to carbon dioxide and water, thereby releasing energy. The new system essentially reversed this natural process.
By adding heat to the system, engineers can combine carbon dioxide and hydrogen (decomposed from water) to produce a few grams of liquid fuel, which the author says can be used in jet engines.
The catalysts that cause this impressive chemical reaction are composed of iron, manganese, and potassium, which are rich earth elements that are easier and cheaper to prepare than many similar candidates. The catalyst is also easy to combine with hydrogen and has high selectivity to a variety of jet fuel hydrocarbons.
The result is a little fuel, and several petrochemical products that can only be obtained from fossil fuels.
The new system is not the first, nor the last, to convert our carbon emissions into ideal biofuels. In Canada, scientists have been developing a huge industrial park to capture carbon dioxide.2 Just like the trees in the forest, use it to form hydrocarbon fuel.
However, although some studies have shown that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can be converted2 Into liquid fuels, it is extremely challenging and expensive to produce small quantities.
The new system looks promising, but whether it is practical is another matter.
An independent engineer who was not involved in the study, Joshua Heyne, said: “It does look different, and it seems feasible.” wired.
“Expanding scale is always a problem, and when the scale is larger, there will be new surprises. But from the perspective of long-term solutions, the idea of a circular carbon economy is definitely the future.”
There is hope for people like Heyne, while others are just hyping “flying in the air”.Last year, when a European company announced that they were working on a way to capture carbon dioxide2 From the air to driving the aircraft of the future, critics point out that the fuel produced every day can only fly for five minutes.
Such a high yield cannot solve the climate crisis. Some environmentalists believe that our only viable option is to fly less. Especially because the reality of a circular carbon economy is still far away, and the climate change crisis is imminent.
In the end, it all depends on how fast we can scale this promising technology, the truth is, it may not happen fast enough.
Engineers ultimately hope to connect their new system to established carbon-emitting countries, such as coal-fired power plants, which of course requires continuous fossil fuel production. It is also really expensive, and even if it does work, it may not be attractive to businesses.
Nevertheless, with the accelerated development of climate change and the growth of the aviation industry in the coming years, the team of engineers believes2 Conversion and utilization are “an indispensable part of greenhouse gas control and sustainable development.”
Other sustainable biofuels that rely on plants require a lot of arable land and cannot simultaneously solve our emissions problem.
They concluded: “So, this is the vision of the aviation industry to achieve net zero carbon emissions, and this is the fulcrum of the global zero-carbon aviation industry in the future.”
We will see.
The research was published in Nature Communications.