First of its kind liquid hydrocarbon fuel, developed by a German company for clean technology, holds the potential to transform the world of renewable energy. The synthetic fuel, which resembles petrol, diesel and kerosene is a product of water and carbon dioxide conversion.
To produce the new synthetic fuel, the guys at Dresden’s Sunfire GmbH followed a series of well known processes, but added their own twist to them. In a specially designed device, hydrogen (H2) is extracted from steam produced from excess electricity from renewable energy sources using solid oxide electrolyser cells (SOEC).
This hydrogen is then used to turn carbon dioxide (CO2), extracted from the atmosphere or captured at facilities as waste, into carbon monoxide (CO). The final step includes the well known Fischer-Tropsch process, where basically H2 and CO are synthesised to produce the high-purity fuel. The byproduct of this is extra heat that is then used to generate more steam. I am not too sure if it is not easier to capture CO directly instead of converting CO2 into it, but I guess the inventors know better.
The development of the million dollar system was partly funded by the company and partly funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Currently the device is still a prototype and it is only used for demonstration and feasibility tests, however its 70% efficiency rate sends all the signs that it could actually one day become the real deal.
The company is hoping to attract investors, who will give the last push to the technology so that it can soon hit the market. The guys at Sunfire GmbH believe that their invention could help the energy industry go smoothly through the transition from fossil fuels to renewables. The most important thing, however, would be to act fast. Only then it is possible to make a difference.
Image (c) Sunfire GmbH