Iron-Based Catalyst can make Jet Fuel from Carbon Dioxide

The airplane can fly with Carbon Dioxide?

Airplanes may be responsible for emitting climate-snugging carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. But airplanes could be powered by sucking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere someday in the future.  

In Nature Communications on December 22, researchers reported that a new iron-based catalyst transforms carbon dioxide into jet fuel. So the people thinking why not carry batteries? So it is not possible to carry such huge ones that could even be powered by solar or wind. But we could certainly reduce the carbon footprint of the aviation industry by using CO2 rather than oil in the making of jet fuel as it is currently responsible for 12% of CO2 emissions from all transportation industry.

CO – Previous Attempts

So it is not a new concept to try and use CO2 in fuel but it required catalysts that were quite expensive materials such as cobalt and needed multiple chemical processing steps. But it is a breakthrough that this time an inexpensive material that includes iron is used to make a catalyst powder that transforms CO2 in one single step to fuel.

Iron-Based Catalyst can make Jet Fuel from Carbon Dioxide
Jet fuel made from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could someday reduce greenhouse gas pollution from air travel.

How was it done?

When carbon dioxide and hydrogen gas are placed in a reaction chamber, the carbon from the CO2 molecule with the help of a catalyst separates from oxygen and bonds with hydrogen which results in a hydrocarbon molecule that is used as jet fuel. And the residue is water as left out oxygen atoms from the CO2 bond with hydrogen atoms.

This was tested by Tiancun Xiao, a chemist at the University of Oxford along with his colleagues when their new catalyst on carbon dioxide at 300° Celsius in a small reaction chamber and air pressure was 10 times that at sea level. When left for 20 hours in the chamber, the catalyst was able to convert 38% percent of carbon dioxide into a new chemical product. Out of this 38%, 48% were jet fuel hydrocarbons along with by-products like petrochemicals- ethylene and propylene that can be used for plastic making.   

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