Surprising new discovery could revolutionise fuel production

Chemists working for the American Navy claim to have come up with a method of converting sea water into aviation fuel – a trick that could revolutionise green fuel production.

According to a report on New Scientist website, Navy chemists have processed the Carbon-dioxide (CO2) from seawater into unsaturated short-chain hydrocarbons that with further refining could be made into kerosene-based jet fuel.

It uses a variant of a chemical reaction called the Fischer-Tropsch process, which is used commercially to produce a gasoline-like hydrocarbon fuel from syngas, a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen often derived from coal.

But CO2’s abundance in seawater, combined with concerns about global warming, make it an attractive potential feedstock.

Heather Willauer, the navy chemist leading the project, says the efficiency needs to be much improved. The complex multi-step process will always consume significantly more energy than the fuel it produces could yield. In addition, each step in the process is likely to add cost and problems.

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