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US Navy Technology Makes Fuel from Seawater

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50c332654b016dd4f53833cd812c25951bd94ac6Making fuel out of seawater is now possible, according to a team of scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC. They developed a technology, which extracts hydrogen and carbon dioxide from water and converts them into hydrocarbon fuel that could power ships and aircraft.

This is a real breakthrough that holds the potential to eliminate once and for all the dependence on oil, which in the case of the Navy, poses a severe safety threat.

Advances in technologies that could boost and at the same time green-up the energy industry are becoming more and more appreciated. The resources that were once considered “unlimited” are now drying out, and if before energy was seen as a given, now the times of low-cost and always-available fuel are over.

The US Navy were one of the first to realize this. Not only that the consumption of fuel for them is a huge, making even the smallest fluctuations in price extremely significant, but also shortages of oil and distance to tankers jeopardizes the safety of ship crews.

These are the reasons, which pushed the scientists from the Naval Research Lab to look for innovative ways to produce fuel, different from oil. After almost a decade spent on the research, they were finally able to develop a technology, which allows simultaneous extraction of hydrogen and carbon dioxide from seawater and using a catalytic converter, turns the gases into fuel via a gas-to-liquid process.

The new hydrocarbon fuel produced from seawater is referred to as a ‘game-changing technology’. It costs between three and six dollars per gallon and it could power not only ships but airplanes too. The technology is simplified to an extend to which it could be made possible on the ship itself, eliminating the need of tankers to supply fuel.

The team, which created the seawater fuel, was led by Dr. Heather Willauer. After they conducted a series of tests on model airplanes, they concluded that the technology is feasible and from now on, it could only be improved. They are now looking for ways to optimize the CO2 and hydrogen extraction and then scale up the production process so that it could make industrial quantities.

The technology brings only benefits. The only limitation really is that the earliest we will see it being implemented on ships would be in about a decade.

Image (c) US Navy

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