A team of researchers at Oxford University have discovered a process that uses cheap iron catalysts to convert CO2 from the air into synthetic fuel for airplanes. The research which focused on mitigating climate change by creating a circular carbon-neutral aviation economy with carbon-neutral fuel is published in Nature Communications.
Today, the aviation sector is one of the major contributors to the greenhouse effect and generates 12 percent of all transportation-linked CO2 emissions. The discovery could make the sector carbon neutral if efficacious.
The process involves transforming carbon dioxide into jet fuel using an organic combustion-synthesized Fe-Mn-K (iron-manganese-potassium) catalyst, which shows a carbon dioxide conversion through hydrogenation to hydrocarbons in the aviation jet fuel range of 38.2 percent and a low carbon monoxide effect of 5.6 percent.
Aviation fuels, also called jet fuel, are used in gas-turbine powered aircraft generally and as pre-pandemic figures show, the aviation industry burnt approximately 363 billion litres of fuel per year. The prior attempts of conversion of CO2 into fuel as climate-affable alternatives largely consumed cobalt catalysts which are expensive and also requires multiple chemical processing steps. Hence, the Oxford researchers are directing the new inexpensive iron-based catalyst powder on recycling CO2 and transformation through a sole step.
The preparation method of iron-based catalysts will be through the Organic Combustion Method (OCM) to determine their catalytic performance for an efficient conversion of CO2 to hydrocarbons that make up jet fuel. The carbon dioxide and hydrogen gas with the catalyst, will enhance the separation of carbon from the CO2 molecules leaving oxygen to combine with hydrogen. This process takes shape in the hydrocarbon molecules while the separated oxygen atoms link with other hydrogen atoms and converts it to water.