Environmentally-conscious travelers, eco-friendly explorers, and “greenaware” people in general might have a new option in their fuel future: carbon dioxide.
Yes, the same greenhouse gas carbon dioxide that has plagued modern society with its air contaminating qualities might just help clean up that pollution.
The first successful demonstration of carbon dioxide air capture technology was demonstrated by a collaboration between Global Research Technologies and Klaus Lackner of Columbia University in 2007.
Since then, researchers in many locations have continued working on the possibility of generating fuels from this source.
Overcoming Thermal-Dynamic Obstacles
Included among these are scientists for German-based renewable energy startup Sunfire are working on this option.
“I’d estimate that it will take between one to two decades before we can replace a single digit percent of current demand (for fuel),” says Chief Technology Officer Christian von Olshausen.
According to Olshausen, the problem is developing materials that can resist extremely high temperatures for long periods of time without degrading.
“But we’ll do it,” assertsOlshausen. “Many innovations in the past century, like the car or the computer, have had to overcome seemingly impossible thermal dynamic obstacles.”
The (very) basic process for creating fuel from air is:
1. Use renewable energy to divide water into hydrogen and oxygen with a very hot electrolyzer
2. Put concoction into a conversion chamber and add carbon dioxide to create “synthesis gas”
3. Induce a chemical reaction to transform gas into a liquid hydrocarbon substance: “synthetic fuel”
“The combustion of synthetic fuel does not increase the amount of C02 in the atmosphere,” Olshausen adds.
The Case Against CO2
It sounds great. However, like pretty much everything, there’s another side to it. The process is simple on the drawing board but requires extremely high temps. This means that it chews up a lot of electricity.
In addition, unlike gasoline or other fossil fuels, it’s a new technology which means time, materials, and effort must be expended to make it work. Fossil fuel technologies are well-developed, and the ability of fossil fuels to hold a lot of energy in a small batch is handy.
On the other hand, proponents argue that the now-available sources of renewable energy make this much more possible. Researchers and manufacturers have more options than only nonrenewable sources such as coal or petroleum.
Proponents also argue for the potential environmental benefits which, they claim, are far more nature-friendly than fossil fuels.
Finally, they contend that the limited supply of dinofuel, to this point, has been plentiful but is dwindling along with the money in consumers’ pockets as they pay steadily increasing gas prices. According to this view, it is better to pay now for research into (eventually) cheaper, renewable energy sources than pay for more expensive, less available petroleum and other typical fuels.
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