Create fuel out of thin air? Is that really possible?
Air Fuel Synthesis, a small company located in Stockton-on-Tees, in the north of England, claims they have developed an “air capture” technology allowing them to create synthetic gasoline using only air and electricity.
With the push to lower carbon emissions and our overall carbon footprint, what’s appealing about this technology is that it can produce carbon-neutral gasoline.
The Christian Science Monitor explains how it works:
The process starts by blowing atmospheric air into a tower containing the sodium hydroxide, which binds to the carbon dioxide to form sodium carbonate.
Adding energy to that substance splits out the carbon dioxide specifically, which is then stored for later use.
Next, a dehumidifier removes water vapor from the air, and more energy is added to separate the hydrogen and oxygen molecules.
Mix the hydrogen with the carbon dioxide in the right proportions and you produce a synthetic gaseous hydrocarbon.
That, in turn, can be processed into methanol–which can be further turned into synthetic gasoline.
The resulting gasoline can either be used in vehicles directly or blended with conventionally extracted and refined gasoline.
By clicking here, you can access an interactive diagram that will provide a visual demonstration of how this process works.
According to Air Fuel Synthesis, the resulting fuel can be used in any regular gasoline tank and even better, if renewable energy is used to provide the electricity it could become “completely carbon neutral.”
Company executives hope to build a refinery size operation within the next 15 years.
Well, certainly if that’s true, it’s an amazing breakthrough.
From The Telegraph:
Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) officials admitted that while the described the technology as being “too good to be true but it is true”, it could prove to be a “game-changer” in the battle against climate change.
Stephen Tetlow, the IMechE chief executive, hailed the breakthrough as “truly groundbreaking”.
“It has the potential to become a great British success story, which opens up a crucial opportunity to reduce carbon emissions,” he said.
Developing the technology that can have a real impact on climate change while reducing dependence on foreign oil supplies sounds great, but are there any downsides here?
The biggest one seems to be the question of where the energy for this process will come from, since outside energy is needed to facilitate the technology at a few stages.
New Scientist points out that this will only be truly carbon-neutral gasoline if all that energy comes from renewable sources like solar, wind or water. On the other hand, if the necessary energy comes from burning coal, then the whole process is hardly carbon-neutral.
Indeed, many critics have been skeptical of the technology, questioning how much energy it would take to produce this gasoline.
Stay tuned, while we wait to see if this is truly green gasoline. Can engineers really produce fuel that looks and smells like the real thing, but is much cleaner?
Whatever the answer, this is an exciting prospect!
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