Creating jet fuel for planes out of carbon dioxide – which could make flying guilt free – could soon be a reality.
The process from a team at Oxford University uses cheap iron catalysts to capture CO2 from the air and converts it into fuel for aeroplanes.
The academics have labelled their innovation a ‘significant social advance’ in how the abundant greenhouse gas is converted and its potential to make flying more environmentally acceptable.
The chemical reaction takes CO2 out of the air, and converts it into jet fuel, which is then emitted by the plane in flight.
As there is no need to extract oil from the ground, the process is carbon neutral.
The process from a team at Oxford University uses cheap iron catalysts to capture CO2 from the air and converts it into fuel for aeroplanes (stock)
Aviation is a large and growing contributor to the greenhouse effect – with its gases labelled by Boris Johnson as creating a ‘toxic teacosy’ around the earth.
It contributes around 10 per cent of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, and is growing as air traffic rises here and abroad.
Flying has as a result become an environmental and political battleground – with environmentalists opposing expansion of air travel – for increasing CO2 emissions.
Teenage activist Greta Thunberg sailed across the Atlantic to the USA to avoid getting in a plane, and celebrities such as Emma Thompson and Harry Potter actress Emma Watson have been lambasted for lecturing the public on the evils of global warming, while regularly jetting round the world.
pictured, the fuel made from CO2 which is combined with hydrogen with the help of a cheap iron-based catalyst
But the UK is legally bound get to ‘net zero’ carbon emissions by 2050, so to do this a new form of carbon neutral fuel must be found.
The issue for aviation is that its fuel breaks down and spews out CO2 and water, and both of these products are emitted into the atmosphere.
However, the new technique would capture the gas already in the atmosphere and create fuel, negating the need to fill up with new fuel extracted from the ground.
CO2 is highly stable, but the researchers led by Peter Edwards of Oxford University managed to convert it back into fuel by using a chemical reaction powered by an iron-based catalyst – at low temperatures – and adding hydrogen.
Speaking to the Daily Mail, Professor Peter Edwards said the breakthrough could put Britain at the forefront of a revolutionary new green industry.
He said: ‘This is a really exciting, potentially revolutionary advance, the most important advance in my four decade career.’
Professor Edwards said he expected it could scale up in two to three years to create jet fuel in large quantities.
He added: ‘Our vision is that the world can see that captured CO2 can be used as energy carrier to enable sustainable aviation.
He added that the team are in advanced discussions with UK industries to set up a pilot plant demonstration.
‘With government support this would provide the stimulus to grow a new UK synthetic aviation fuel manufacturing industry .
‘This advance offers post – Brexit Britain a chance to lead the world in climate change , boost our science base and enhance our reputation.
‘These scientific advances must now lead to break-through technology and innovation. We mustn’t miss this opportunity.’
Writing in the respected journal Nature Communications, the authors said that their discovery could ‘mitigate carbon dioxide emissions but also to produce renewable and sustainable jet fuel’.
Richest one per cent of the world’s population is responsible for more than TWICE as much carbon pollution as the poorest half
The richest one per cent of people in the world are disproportionately to blame for climate change, a study has found.
Researchers assessed the relationship between carbon emissions and individual income and found the top one per cent emits 5.4 gigatonnes of CO2 a year.
In contrast, the poorest half of the world — 3.1 billion people — emits just 2.5 gigatonnes, less than half that of the world’s uber-wealthy.
Researchers say the posh penchant for private planes, jet-setting lifestyles and gas guzzling vehicles is driving inequality in carbon emissions, with the poorest likely to pay the heaviest price despite barely contributing to the ongoing climate crisis.
Despite a sharp decrease in carbon emissions due to the pandemic, the world remains on pace to warm several degrees this century.
The impact of this will be catastrophic and threaten poor and developing nations with the full gamut of natural disasters and displacements.
An analysis led by Oxfam and the Stockholm Environment Institute analysed how emissions ballooned between 1990 and 2015.