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US Air Force looks to make jet fuel from atmospheric carbon dioxide

US Air Force looks to make jet...
Jet fuel from carbon dioxide could power aircraft like the K-135 Stratotanker
Jet fuel from carbon dioxide could power aircraft like the K-135 Stratotanker
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Jet fuel from carbon dioxide could power aircraft like the K-135 Stratotanker
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Jet fuel from carbon dioxide could power aircraft like the K-135 Stratotanker

The US Air Force is studying the feasibility of a process developed by tech company Twelve that could allow the manufacture of a carbon-neutral aviation fuel called E-Jet anywhere on Earth using only carbon dioxide from the air, water, and renewable energy.

Any air force that has evolved beyond gliders is tethered to the supply lines that transport and store the fuel needed to keep its machines in the air. This is not only expensive and complicated when it comes to refueling distant bases, it's also dangerous because such supply lines are prime targets for enemy forces. According to the US Air Force, attacks on fuel and water convoys in Afghanistan accounted for 30 percent of coalition casualties.

As an alternative, the USAF is looking for ways to make its bases at least partly independent of outside fuel sources by means of a deployable, scalable synthesis process that doesn't need a large number of specialists to operate.

The process developed by Twelve is referred to by the company as "industrial photosynthesis" and uses polymer electrolyte membrane electrolysis, which is a sort of inverted fuel cell, with a metal catalyst installed on a cathode to break down carbon dioxide and water into their component ions and then convert them into oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon monoxide.

These are then put through the Fischer-Tropsch process, which is a series of reactions developed in Germany in the 1920s that, in steps, turns them into methane and then increasingly complex organic molecules like polyethylene, ethanol, ethylene, methane, polypropylene, and, as of August 2021, jet fuel.

The current pilot phase is expected to be completed by December and the results will then be assessed. If the technology is practical for military applications, it will mean that the USAF will potentially be able to produce synthetic fuel onsite without the need for coal, natural gas, or biofuel. According to Twelve, it might even be possible to harvest not only the carbon dioxide from the air, but the water as well.

For the next step, the USAF will look into scaling up the process to produce practical supplies of the fuel, which can be blended with conventional fuel in ratios of up to 50 percent. However, there are still basic problems that need to be resolved – not the least of which is to find a renewable way to power the process.

"My office is looking at a number of initiatives to not only optimize aviation fuel use for improved combat capability, but to reduce the logistics burden as well," says Roberto Guerrero, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for operational energy. "We’re excited about the potential of carbon transformation to support this effort and Twelve’s technology – as one of the tools in our toolbox – could help us get there."

Source: US Air Force

11 comments
11 comments
paleochocolate
Once that becomes feasable, the US military will largely become redundant.
Chase
Well, just 6 days ago you guys had an article about the USAF developing a mobile micro nuclear reactor. Pretty sure that would provide enough juice to get the job done, rain or shine.
vince
So your telling me that they will still have to import 50% of their fuel and then make the other 50% onsite? That's adding complexity--you have to still protect our supply lines and also protect your manufacturing plant onsite from terrorists attacks. More complex equals more money. No thanks. Keep it simple and fly electric planes for most transport then you don't need fuel at all--just electrons from solar power.
Catweazle
Renewable energy?
I remember back in 1956 when Calder Hall, the World's first nuclear power station, opened in the UK and we were solemnly assured that nuclear power would produce electricity "too cheap to meter"...
What went wrong?
navmed
The carbon monoxide may become an issue if this starts being used at scale.
Ralf Biernacki
IIUC, the process requires mostly heat energy, rather than electricity. That makes it possible to use power plants such as small nuclear reactors very efficiently, with little waste heat left over. And if one were to actually consider renewables, it appears a solar furnace would be the most suitable.
TechGazer
Instead of making these hydrocarbons that can be mixed with regular fuel, they could figure out what specific hydrocarbon or mixture is most efficient for this process to produce, and modify the engines to run optimally on that. Producing that hydrocarbon or mix from petroleum--or biomass or waste plastic--where it's available would probably be easier than trying to turn CO2 and water into regular petroleum.
yawood
Solar is not as feasible for this purpose because it takes up too much space and therefore is more vulnerable to enemy action, not to mention daylight use only. A small nuclear power plant is much more useful, especially if it can be housed in a bomb-proof bunker.
Robert Schreib
Well, Google invented various flying windmill designs, that in theory, could supply us with ALL of the electric power we need, BUT, we cannot have them near cities, because they would endanger aircrafts and flying delivery drones, and offend NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard!) protesters. There's also a similar wind power system by a www.kitegen.com outfit, that uses a giant kite to generate clean electricity. So, what if we set up isolated islands or discarded oil drilling rigs, far out in the middle of the ocean, away from cities and aircrafts, with their jet fuel manufacturing gear, and then take the carbon dioxide emitted by ALL of the world's coal burning electric power plants, liquified it to condense its volume, and put it fuel tanker ships to deliver to these places, and then use their unlimited clean electricity, renewable CO2, and sea water, to MASS_PORDUCE various kinds of synthetic fuels? This would be a MASSIVE global project, but the overall cost of it could be lessened by using some of the synthetic fuels produced, to empower the ships delivering the liquified CO2, and then returning to the main lands with the synthetic fuels, to enable a new zero carbon economy.
Dm Pager
Bullshit. Obamian dreamers and idiots in Pentagon. Oh, grief in United States! Grief...
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