The start of electric flying is upon us, but it will take Many more years Before the average environmental activist could fly guilt-free in a long-haul electric plane.
Meanwhile, scientists are trying to make the commercial aircraft we already have more sustainable, and one of the best ways to do that is to change the fuel they consume.
Instead of spitting out carbon dioxide (CO2In the atmosphere, researchers at the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom have now come up with a way for airplanes to capture this gas from the air and burn it for fuel.
Instead of creating an entirely new fleet of electric aircraft, which would require massive leaps in battery storage technology, this new approach will allow the world to reduce the carbon emissions from flying much sooner. That is if it proves to work on a larger scale.
In the lab, researchers were able to capture and convert carbon dioxide2 Directly into aviation fuel using inexpensive iron-based catalyst.
The amount of liquid fuel produced is still far too small to power an actual aircraft, but if it could capture fossil fuels from the air in large enough quantities, convert it into energy with high enough efficiency and then re-launch it, the aircraft could theoretically fly carbon emissions.
“This catalytic process provides an attractive pathway not only to reduce carbon dioxide emissions but also to produce sustainable renewable jet fuels.” Write.
“Recycling carbon dioxide as a source of carbon for both high-value fuels and chemicals offers great potential for both the aviation and petrochemical industries.”
Usually, when fossil fuels are burned, the hydrocarbons they contain are converted into carbon dioxide and water, which releases energy. The new system fundamentally reflects this natural process.
By adding heat to the system, engineers were able to combine carbon dioxide and hydrogen, separated from water, to produce a few grams of liquid fuel that the authors say could operate in a jet engine.
The catalyst responsible for this impressive chemical reaction consists of iron, manganese, and potassium, which are abundant earth elements, easier and cheaper to prepare than many similar, similar elements. The catalyst also readily combines with hydrogen and shows a high selectivity to a group of jet fuel hydrocarbons.
The result is less fuel, plus many more petrochemicals that can only be obtained from fossil fuels.
The new system is not the first, and it will not be the last to convert our carbon emissions into desirable biofuels. In Canada, scientists have worked to develop a large industrial complex to capture carbon dioxide2 Like forest trees, it is used to form hydrocarbon fuel.
But while a handful of studies have it It shows Possible to convert carbon dioxide into the atmosphere2 In liquid fuels, it is very difficult and expensive to produce more than a trace amount.
The new system looks promising, but whether or not it is practical is another matter.
“This looks different, and it looks like it could work,” Joshua Heine, a freelance engineer who was not involved in the study, Tell Wired.
“Expansion is always a problem, and there are new surprises when it goes to bigger scales. But in terms of a long-term solution, the idea of a circular carbon economy is definitely something the future could be.”
Some, like Heyne, are optimistic, while Others see “flying on the air” as mere propaganda. Last year, when a company in Europe announced it was working on a method to capture carbon dioxide2 From the air to operate future aircraft, critics have indicated that the fuel produced each day would only allow five minutes of flight.
Small returns like this are not a solution to the climate crisis, and some environmentalists argue that our only viable option is to fly less. Especially since the reality of the circular carbon economy remains elusive and a crisis Climate change Already on us.
Ultimately, it all depends About how quickly we can scale this promising technologyIn fact, it may not happen fast enough.
Ultimately, engineers want to link their new system to existing carbon emissions, such as coal-fired power plants, and that of course requires continued production of fossil fuels. It Also really expensiveEven if successful, it may not be attractive to companies.
However, as climate change accelerates, and aviation is only set to increase in the coming years, the team of engineers argue Tadalafil2 Conversion and use “an integral and important part of greenhouse gas control and sustainable development.”
Other sustainable plant-based biofuels It requires large tracts of farmland And don’t address our emissions at the same time.
“This, then, is the vision for the road to achieving net carbon emissions from aviation,” they said Conclude, “The focal point for a future global zero-carbon aviation sector.”
we will see.
The study was published in Nature Communications.