The technology can be useful for the transport sector, especially for aviation and shipping, that will remain dependent on liquid fuels for long distances
In a first, German researchers have used sunlight, carbon dioxide (CO2) and water to make kerosene, which has potential to revolutionise the energy sector, according to German-Aerospace Centre (DLR).
In a pilot project, researchers from the ETH Zurich developed a novel technology that uses concentrated solar energy to synthesise liquid hydrocarbon fuel from water and CO2. For this product, CO2 and water are taken directly from the air and split using solar energy.
The process yields synthesis gas or syngas — a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. It is subsequently processed and converted into kerosene, methanol or other hydrocarbons.
“The demonstration of this technology could have large effects on the transport sector, especially for aviation and shipping, that will remain dependent on liquid fuels for long distances,” said Andreas Sizmann, project coordinator, in a statement issued on Thursday.
He explained that the reversal of combustion is accomplished via a high-temperature thermochemical cycle based on metal oxide redox reactions, which converts water and CO2 into energy-rich synthesis gas (syngas).
The technology is part of the European Union’s sun-to-liquid project, which began in January 2016 with the aim to decarbonise transport sector.
It was first tested in laboratory and then under real conditions using a solar tower in Spain, the DLR said.
If compared with fossil fuels, the sun-to-liquid cuts CO2 emissions by more than 90 per cent, according to the Clean Energy Wire, a network of climate change journalists working from Germany.
The project also intends to extract CO2 from the atmosphere.
“The future global kerosene demand can therefore be covered with renewable solar fuels that are compatible with the existing fuel infrastructure,” DLR said.
According to researchers, the solar mini-refinery based in Zurich establishes that the technology is feasible even in Zurich's climate condition. Currently, the mini-refinery produces around one decilitre of fuel per day. The team next aims to scale the technology for industrial implementation and make it economically competitive.
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