Researchers at Oxford University converted carbon dioxide into jet fuel in their lab using a new iron-based catalyst, a method they hope can eventually be used to reduce the carbon footprint of air travel.
Oxford chemist Tiancun Xiao and colleagues published their study in Nature Communications
“Climate change is accelerating, and we have huge carbon dioxide emissions,” Xiao, a senior research fellow at Oxford’s Department of Chemistry and an author on the paper, told Wired.
“The infrastructure of hydrocarbon fuels is already there. This process could help relieve climate change and use the current carbon infrastructure for sustainable development.”
Using the organic combustion method, researchers added heat to citric acid, hydrogen, and a catalyst made of iron, manganese, and potassium to CO2, producing liquid that would fuel a jet. But they were only able to produce a few grams of the substance.
“This does look different, and it looks like it could work,” Joshua Heyne, associate professor of mechanical and chemical engineering at the University of Dayton, told Wired. “Scale-up is always an issue, and there are new surprises when you go to larger scales. But in terms of a longer-term solution, the idea of a circular carbon economy is definitely something that could be the future.”
The air travel industry’s carbon footprint currently makes up 12% of all transportation-related CO2 emissions.