Thursday, August 20, 2009

Seawater to Jet Fuel

This is an interesting 'green' initiative funded by the Navy.

According to New Scientist, this process "uses a variant of a chemical reaction called the Fischer-Tropsch process, which is used commercially to produce a gasoline-like hydrocarbon fuel from syngas, a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen often derived from coal."

Robert Dorner, a Naval Research Laboratory chemist in Washington DC, says that CO2 has been largely overlooked by people who regularly using this process as it is so stable. Its abundance in seawater makes it an "attractive" potential basis for creating fuels.

The team is now concentrating on how to produce hydrocarbons without also creating unwanted methane, which is a common product of the conventional Fischer-Tropsch process.

Changing the cobalt-based catalyst for the process to an iron catalyst reduced the methane produced to just 30 per cent of the final product. Heather Willauer, the chemist leading the project, says this efficiency needs to be further improved and that he is now considering other catalysts.

They face one further obstacle if this is to be a genuinely green process: finding a green source of electricity with which to power the electrolysis needed to produce hydrogen.
I would suggest aluminum, although maybe in the future nuclear powered logistics ships convert seawater to fuel for the rest of the fleet? Either way, another well spent dime on research by the Navy if you ask me. It will be interesting to see whether the new process is less expensive than the current method for producing jet fuel. Costs matter.

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