Sucking CO2 from the Air for Jet Fuel

A simple, yet world-altering method of sucking CO2 from the air into airplanes where it is converted directly to jet fuel is described in a new paper published in Nature.

Most estimates put the aviation industry’s primarily-CO2 footprint of global emissions at just under 1 billion metric tons, or around 2 to 3 percent of all human activities. Whilst new companies are investigating the capabilities of electric planes, hybrid planes and hydrogen powered planes, wouldn't it be equally efficient (or more so) to directly capture and convert carbon dioxide from the air to power planes?

With the importance of removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere at the front and centre of so many economic and policy decisions, the invention of an onboard system for carbon-neutral flight would represent a massive step towards addressing the climate crisis.

Converting atmospheric CO2 into useable hydrocarbon fuel is difficult, and as until recently, expensive both in terms of capital and electricity. Using a molecule that is fully oxidized and thermodynamically stable, there are few keys that can cheaply or efficiently ‘unlock it’ for reuse.

The University of Oxford’s Peter Edwards, Tiancun Xiao, Benzhen Yao, and colleagues designed a new iron-based catalyst that represents an inexpensive way of directly capturing atmospheric CO2 and converting it into a jet fuel-range of hydrocarbons.

“The advances reported here offer a route out of the current, worldwide [lifecycle] for jet fuels, based on the (present) Production-Consumption- Disposal/Emission structure,” write the authors of the invention whose paper was published in Nature.

“This, then, is the vision for the route to achieving net-zero carbon emissions from aviation; a fulcrum of a future global zero-carbon aviation sector.”


Zero-Emission Large Passenger Aircraft: Hydrogen-powered planes will be commercially viable by the 2030s, says Airbus. Eliminating the percentage of carbon dioxide from the world's plane travel emissions would be excellent news. More...