Carbon dioxide (CO2) is often cited as one of the biggest environmental problems in transport and industry. These are greenhouse gases that make a major contribution to climate change and are not good for human health. Or maybe it could be fuel? Scientists already know how to convert CO2 into jet fuel that could be used by the aircraft.
In fact, carbon dioxide is not so different from the fuels in a chemical way. And how to transform each other scientists have known for a long time. But how to turn CO2 into fuel that could actually be produced economically and ecologically is only now being learned by the group of researchers.
A catalyst must be used to convert CO2 to a hydrocarbon. Previous methods have used cobalt for this, which is rare and expensive material. Also, that process involved several steps, was not very clean or efficient. But now scientists believe that CO2 could be converted into fuel in a one-step process using iron catalysts. Well, of course, those powders do not just contain iron. There are also manganese, potassium, and other elements involved. However, scientists consider the main catalyst to be iron. And while this process is relatively complex so far, it can be described briefly.
Carbon dioxide and hydrogen are put into a special sealed container. A catalyst is then poured in there, which drives the carbon from CO2 to hydrogen, thus forming hydrocarbons. Free oxygen atoms also form hydrogen, as a result, they make water as a product of the chemical chain.
The special conditions might be created inside the sealed container to get all the products of the above described process. The temperature inside the special sealed container must reach not less than 300°C and the pressure must be approximately 10 bar. When performing the test reaction, the group of researchers at Oxford University converted 38% of the carbon dioxide in the container in 20 hours. 48% of the newly formed materials were hydrocarbons that could be used as fuel. The remaining products were water, ethene and propylene. These two elements could be used for plastics production in the industrial way. However, the researchers that made this experiment note that this is just a test, as a result, all the process can be improved in every step to reach the best efficiency and reduce the expenses.
Converting CO2 could solve many problems. This technology could be paired with atmospheric CO2 capture technologies, thus addressing the issue of CO2 storage (disposal). However, the most significant benefit of this converting might be seen in aviation as it would bring it closer to CO2 neutrality. Aviation is currently responsible for around 12% of CO2 emissions from the worldwide transport system. The batteries for airplanes are too big and too heavy, hydrogen technology is moving too slowly, and the airplanes now in production will still have to fly for at least a couple of decades. Production of CO2 fuels would make current aircraft more environmentally friendly.