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Airplane Fuel from Water and Air

September 16, 2014
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Refueling an airplane Combustible fuels for airplanes are made from hydrocarbons. The starting point can be crude oil, ethanol or natural gas. All current hydrocarbons on the market deplete natural resources, but new research from Israel promises an unlimited fuel source: a hydrocarbon feedstock, made from just water and air. This fuel could be the aviation industry’s “green” fuel in the next 10 or 20 years. The science has been done before, but the Israelis have refined the method, says Prof. Moti Herskowitz from Ben-Gurion University, who conducted the research with his team.

While it will likely be commercially viable only when the price of the basic hydrogen gas is more affordable, it’s definitely something that could be part of a renewable energy mix, a pragmatic Herskowitz says. Reactions are made at relatively low and safe pressures. The output is a clear liquid and clear gas that could be refined as a fuel. The waste materials are water, mixed with hydrocarbons, which go back into the process. He promises that a paper describing the science shown in the lab will be forthcoming sometime in 2014.

Herskowitz imagines future reactors built onto conventional power plants’ smokestacks so that greenhouse gases emitted as polluting carbon dioxide can be turned directly into a carbon-based fuel.

In the lab, using what is called a fixed bed reactor, one needs carbon and hydrogen to make a hydrocarbon, Herskowitz explains. With unlimited access to carbon dioxide in our environment, the limiting part of the equation is hydrogen. In the last five years, advances have been made toward splitting water (hydrogen and oxygen) on a commercial scale. When the cost of hydrogen goes down eventually, “our invention becomes viable. Right now, it is not cheap enough,” he says. “We are not the first to do this, but so far we are the best at it.”

Source: Excerpts of an article by Rivka Borochov Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Photo Credit: Chameleoneye/Shutterstock.com

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