Can Co2 converted to jet fuel make air travel carbon neutral?

Climate change is a fact, it cannot be denied now because the harmful results are now clear and visible to us. Change in weather patterns, temperature, rainfall, increased heat, droughts, food shortage, and insect outbreaks are all connected to climate change.

The carbon footprint of a person contributes heavily to global climate change. 

Carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gases especially carbon emitted by a person or an organization or community in the atmosphere due to his activities. The carbon footprint of an individual or organization is calculated by measuring the amount of emission of greenhouse gases such as CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide, or any other type of climate impact such as vapor trails from airplanes.

In an attempt to reduce carbon dioxide emission a team of researchers from Oxford University has made an astounding discovery. The researcher’s team has developed a method to convert CO2 into Jet fuel. However, the attempt is made on a very small scale now but if this discovery can be replicated on a large scale this will be a breakthrough in producing a sustainable, synthetic hydrocarbons jet fuel for transportation purposes. 

Reverse engineering for this has now been successfully conducted but the experiment needs to be conducted on large scale to make carbon emission in air travel neutral.  

The researcher’s team from Oxford University has developed a method to use low-cost iron catalysts for the conversion of CO2 present in the atmosphere to synthetic jet fuel. The aim is to develop a method to convert the CO2 release directly from factories or vehicles into jet fuel. 

Initially, Fe-Mn-K (iron-manganese-potassium) catalyst was prepared by the scientist through the organic combustion method (OCM). The iron catalyst brings out the hydrogenation converting CO2 into hydrocarbons in the aviation jet fuel range of 38.2 percent and a low carbon monoxide output of 5.6 percent.

The scientist heated the mixture of citric acid, hydrogen, catalyst, and carbon dioxide at (350 degrees Celsius, which is 662 degrees Fahrenheit to obtain the fuel. 

Other raw materials for the petrochemical industry are also produced as a by-product of the conversion reaction triggered by the catalyst. The raw materials use now are produced from the conversion reactions and extracted only from fossil crude oil now.

The method:

The carbon emitted from vehicles or jets is used for conversion and then it is converted into fuel and when the fuel burns it emits the carbon again in the atmosphere. Hence, the process is cyclic and the carbon is reused making the whole process carbon neutral.

For now, this project is confined to the lab walls and some major issues need to be tackled before implementing the idea on a larger scale.

One of the major problems is capturing carbon from the atmosphere it is not easy to extract carbon from the air because air included a mixture of many different gases.  

Activation of CO2 with the catalyst is also not easy and the hydrocarbon synthesis via the hydrogenation of CO2 using catalyst favors the formation of short hydrocarbon chains but the synthesis of jet fuel requires a long hydrocarbon chain. 

 “Climate change is accelerating, and we have huge carbon dioxide emissions. The infrastructure of hydrocarbon fuels is already there. This process could help relieve climate change and use the current carbon infrastructure for sustainable development. Said Tiancun Xiao one of the paper’s authors from Oxford’s Department of Chemistry.

An expert Joshua Heyne who is not involved in this project commented “This does look different, and it looks like it could work.” The associate professor of mechanical and chemical engineering at the University of Dayton further added “Scale-up is always an issue, and there are new surprises when you go to larger scales. But in terms of a longer-term solution, the idea of a circular carbon economy is definitely something that could be the future.”

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