With regulations on carbon content in fuel becoming more and more strict, especially when it comes to airplanes, researchers and engineers around the world has entered the ultimate battle to create a carbon-neutral fuel. It is so competitive that even Google has decided to fund such a project by giving a substantial budget to the start-up Cool Planet, who are currently working on developing the carbon negative biofuel.
However, a team of researchers from five leading institutes, funded by the EU through the project SOLAR-JET, came up with an alternative- jet fuel from sunlight.
The aviation sector is under a lot of pressure as air travel was found to be fastest growing contributor to atmospheric pollution. For quite some time now, scientists have been trying to find alternative sources of fuel that can minimize the amount of carbon that our holiday trips seem to be adding to the atmosphere, but so far no one has reported a huge success story.
This is where the work of the team behind SOLAR-JET comes in. The guys took on the task to create kerosene from carbon dioxide, water and sunlight, making the new jet fuel carbon-neutral. To do this, the guys first converted carbon dioxide and water to a hydrogen/carbon monoxide mixture only by using sunlight and a metal-oxide catalysts. Then, they bid on a very well-known process called Fischer–Tropsch, which essentially turns the mixture into kerosene using a special solar reactor technology with a maximum solar-to-fuel energy conversion efficiency.
Although the price of such fuel is not yet estimated, and the process is still in its testing stage, the work seems to be the glimpse of light that the aviation sector now needs. But one thing has to be clarified here. The fuel is carbon-neutral but it is not greenhouse gas- neutral. OK, it will not eliminate pollution, but I guess it will be at least sustainable. Should we be happy with such solution? Maybe, it is definitely better than nothing.
Image (c) SOLAR-JET