Researchers from Oxford University have recently published a new paper in the journal Nature Communications, introducing an experimental technique of turning carbon dioxide into jet fuel, which could become a climate game-changer in the near future.

The experimental technique was deployed in a stainless-steel reactor by adding heat (350 degrees Celsius) to citric acid, hydrogen, and a catalyst made of iron, manganese, and potassium to CO2 which came from a specialised container.

While the liquid fuel output reported in the study was only a few grams, the technique could be adapted to capturing large amounts of the greenhouse gas from cars, factories, or even directly from the air, thereby reducing or at least slowing down the processes related to climate change.

Reverse engineering jet fuel from carbon dioxide could contribute to developing circular carbon economy. Image: Martin Vorel via, CC0 Public Domain

Tiancun Xiao, a co-author on the study, claims the new technique would be cheaper than current methods of turning hydrogen and water into fuel due to lower demand for electric power. In addition, the catalyst is made up of renewable ingredients, and requires fewer steps than other methods.

If the technique is successful, Xiao envisions building jet fuel plants next to steel or cement factories, or coal-burning power plants, and putting their excess CO2 to good use, while contributing to the fight against climate change at the same time.

To compete with other recent alternatives to traditional fuel, such as fuel synthesised from municipal waste, straw, woody biomass, used cooking oil, and many other compounds, the new technique will have to be scaled up, which could pose a whole set of new surprises.

Xiao, however, is optimistic. “There are no big challenges, but we need to optimise the process and make it more efficient”.



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By Clark