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Converting carbon dioxide into jet fuel: A revolutionary breakthrough

The world keeps advancing in many magnificent ways as technology continues to provide solutions to save our planet. For a while now, climate change turned from a far-fetched tragic future into a catastrophic reality. Moreover, with air transportation accommodating to a vast portion of the emission, scientists started exploring some better options. Thus, Carbon Sciences, a team of researchers, has developed a way to produce jet fuel using carbon dioxide as the main ingredient.

A new method

Since the aviation industry accounts for almost 12% of all transportation-related carbon dioxide emissions, experts have been trying to figure a way of turning the industry more environmentally-friendly. Furthermore, the fact that global aviation produced 2.5 percent of all CO2 emissions in 2018 alone is another proof of the necessity of this discovery. Even though the pandemic took its toll on this industry as well and decreased flights by 60 percent, the industry will soon recover. Thus, a greener method is still essential. 

However, unlike cars and small vehicles, planes can’t use an electric-battery powered via renewable means because of their massive size. In this case, the battery will simply be too heavy for planes to carry. Therefore, scientists took another root and started testing other chemical processes for producing carbon-neutral jet fuel. In an online report published on December 22, in Nature Communications, a team of scientists claims to produce jet fuel from carbon dioxide. 

The chemical process

In their report, the team described using the organic combustion process as a means of converting carbon dioxide in the air into jet fuel and other products. The chemical process mainly revolves around forcing the carbon atoms apart from the oxygen atoms in CO2 molecules, then bonding them with hydrogen atoms. Thus, carbon dioxide will turn into hydrocarbon molecules that comprise liquid jet fuel. Of course, the process will create water molecules and other harmless compounds. However, for the process to work, scientists used an iron catalyst as well as potassium and manganese, along with hydrogen, citric acid, and carbon dioxide heated to 350 degrees C.

On the other hand, this method is not some magical way to remove emissions from the atmosphere. The fuel will be carbon-neutral. Burning it will still release the same amount of carbon dioxide. However, the amount released is equivalent to that used in creating the fuel. Nonetheless, this fact by no means undermines the amazing potential of this discovery. 

The advantages

 Though most of the time going green means more expenses, this might not be the case with this fuel. Researchers argue that this method can be cheaper than other methods for producing airplane fuel. For example, unlike methods that rely on converting hydrogen and water into fuel, this method uses less electrical power. 

Furthermore, the plan to collect carbon emissions is very reliable. They can use the converters on plants that already emit a huge amount of carbon dioxide, such as coal-fired power plants. They also plan to install it next to oil refineries. 

Moreover, the initial tests proved successful in converting  38% of the carbon dioxide in a pressurized chamber into jet fuel and other products over the course of 20 hours. 

Tiancun Xiao, a chemist at the University of Oxford, reported that the fuel makes up 48% of the produced products. On the other hand, the other compounds produced, such as ethylene and propylene, can be later used to make plastics and other essential manufacturing products.

A revolutionary invention

If the method proves to be as efficient and cost-effectively as the team claims, then it will revolutionize the entire energy industry. Not only will it help the aviation industry achieve carbon neutrality, but the prospect will also play a vital role in helping other industries achieve a similar goal. Moreover, the team is positive and confident with their discovery, as they promise actual results within the near future. 

“We are very excited about our novel process to transform CO2 into fuel,” says company CEO Derek McLeish. “Based on our research to date, we believe that we will be able to demonstrate our technology within the next several months with a prototype that can convert a stream of CO2 into an immediately flammable liquid fuel.”

In brief, technology is keeping up with our planet’s needs and scientists are discovering better ways to save it. Hopefully, this discovery will provide a perfect solution for achieving zero emissions in the aviation industry. 


CO2 was just converted into jet fuel and it could reshape aviation for good. (2020). TRT World., H. (2020, December 22). A new iron-based catalyst converts carbon dioxide into jet fuel. Science News., B., Xiao, T., Makgae, O. A., Jie, X., Gonzalez-Cortes, S., Guan, S., Kirkland, A. I., Dilworth, J. R., Al-Megren, H. A., Al Shihri, S. M., Dobson, P. J., Owen, G. P., Thomas, J. M., & Edwards, P. P. (2020, December 22). Transforming carbon dioxide into jet fuel using an organic combustion-synthesized Fe-Mn-K catalyst. Nature Communications., B. (2020, December 23). Making jet fuel out of carbon dioxide. Phys.,kind%20of%20hydrocarbon%20molecules%20that