Your Next Flight Could Run on Recycled CO2!

New catalyst turns carbon dioxide into planet-friendly jet fuel.

Feb 26, 2021
Your Next Flight Could Run on Recycled CO2! | New catalyst turns carbon dioxide into planet-friendly jet fuel.

Visiting new and distant places is one of the greatest pleasures for many around the world. But not everyone is willing to sacrifice their vacations and the air travel it often entails to safeguard the environment. People fly on planes despite the fact that the aviation industry accounts for 3.5 percent of global warming, as ourworldindata.org reveals. Not surprisingly, a no-fly movement has thrust the issue into public discussion in Sweden in particular, but there may be another route to greener travel.

 
 
 
 
 
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Science has been trying to apply the idea of the “circular economy” to the aviation industry for some time, as singularityhub.com points out, and it seems like it has finally achieved this. How? By recycling fuel waste, instead of simply discarding it like the traditional “linear economy” would do.

The successful researchers from the University of Oxford have managed to develop a new iron-based catalyst that can directly turn CO2 into jet fuel at low cost, hopefully laying the foundations for a circular aviation industry.

“It is now imperative to develop clean, energy-efficient technologies for producing sustainable or renewable aviation fuels” they explain in a Nature Communications paper. “Instead of consuming fossil crude oil, the [jet aviation] fuels are produced from carbon dioxide using sustainable renewable hydrogen and energy.”

This innovative solution recycles carbon dioxide, which is key to achieving sustainable development. It also promises to contribute towards the achievement of net-zero carbon emissions in the aviation sector. And what is most unprecedented, it can be produced at low cost. There have been previous efforts but, according to singularity.com, these approaches were too pricey.

The new catalyst was prepared using the so-called “Organic Combustion Method”. As explained on wired.com, the experiment aimed to reverse the process of burning fossil fuels in order to turn its final result - carbon dioxide - into jet fuel. To do this, the experiments involved the combination of raw ingredients with citric acid. The resulting slurry would then be converted into a powder ready to be used. 

Scaling up such a process is a real challenge, given the enormous supply needs of the aviation industry. Still, the new discovery could be the starting-point for a whole new way of flying, one that doesn't require abandoning or drastically reducing the number of flights for thousands of millions of travelers in an effort to help save the planet. 

So will science be able to positively transform how the industry works? Only time will tell. For now the odds are promising thanks to this groundbreaking discovery harnessing recycled C02, which could make flights carbon neutral. 

And maybe even those currently adhering to the no-fliy movement’s suggestions to reduce air travel will gladly take a plane again towards a new and exciting destination!

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DAIANA BROJT, CONTRIBUTOR
With a love for fashion, technology, self-development, nature and communication, Daiana is a freelance writer. She is the creator of an online community platform dedicated to providing inspiration and information on trends, developments and positive impact initiatives in the world of Sustainable Fashion.