Researchers use concentrated light as high-temperature source
An EU-funded research project called SOLAR-JET has produced the world’s first “solar” jet fuel from water and carbon dioxide (CO2). Researchers demonstrated the entire production chain for renewable kerosene, using concentrated light as a high-temperature energy source.
The project is still at the experimental stage, with a glassful of jet fuel produced in laboratory conditions, using simulated sunlight. However, the results give hope that in future any liquid hydrocarbon fuels could be produced from sunlight, CO2 and water.
“This technology means we might one day produce cleaner and plentiful fuel for planes, cars and other forms of transport,” European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn claimed. “This could greatly increase energy security and turn one of the main greenhouse gases responsible for global warming into a useful resource.”
In a first step, concentrated light – simulating sunlight – was used to convert carbon dioxide and water to synthesis gas (“syngas”) in a high-temperature solar reactor (see picture) containing metal-oxide based materials developed at ETH Zürich.
The syngas, a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, was then converted into kerosene by Shell using the established Fischer-Tropsch process.
Although producing syngas through concentrated solar radiation is still at an early stage of development, the processing of syngas to kerosene is already being deployed by companies, including Shell, on a global scale. Combining the two approaches has the potential to provide secure and sustainable supplies of aviation fuel. Fischer-Tropsch derived fuels can be used by existing vehicles and aircraft without engine modifications.
[image courtesy European Commission]