Now we’re getting somewhere!
When I first read the story I thought it might be an internet hoax, no matter how much I wanted to believe it. Imagine… seawater as fuel! Well, not exactly the water part of it, but the carbon dioxide pollution we humans seem to create in such mass quantities. Of course CO2 does occur naturally when as part of the carbon cycle, plants and algae use light energy to photosynthesize carbohydrate from carbon dioxide and water, and oxygen is produced as a waste product. Yay plants, thank you. However, photosynthesis cannot occur in darkness and at night some carbon dioxide is produced by plants during respiration, just like us and all animals. Left to the natural cycle, CO2 has been in balance for, well, ever.
Enter the industrial revolution with all its great advancements and not-so-great byproducts. We create carbon dioxide when we burn wood, coal, peat, petroleum, and natural gas. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and the burning of carbon-based fuels since the industrial revolution has rapidly increased its concentration in the atmosphere, leading to global warming. It is also a major source of ocean acidification since it dissolves in water to form carbonic acid. With the concentration in the ocean about 140 times greater than that in air, we are acidifying our oceans. We still need to work on cutting our carbon footprint but, in addition to that, finding ways to extract CO2 from our air and water is a must. Enter the Navy!
The brain power behind this revolutionary science comes from research chemist Dr. Heather Willauer and her team of scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory who are developing a process to extract carbon dioxide (CO2) and produce hydrogen gas (H2) from seawater, subsequently catalytically converting the CO2 and H2 into fuel by a gas-to-liquids process. Fueled by a liquid hydrocarbon the research team demonstrated sustained flight of a radio-controlled model plane, powered by an off-the-shelf and unmodified two-stroke internal combustion engine. “It’s a net-zero carbon footprint,” she explains. “So you’re taking the carbon, you put it in a fuel, it you burn it, it goes back [in] the atmosphere, but you’re not creating anything more. I’m not getting fossil fuel out of the ground and putting more CO2 in the air, I’m actually using the CO2 from the environment.” The Naval Research Laboratory began the project in 2011 and reports it could be commercially viable within seven to 10 years.
The process can also be used to produce natural gas, a cleaner fuel for our many modes of transportation.
It’s a fuel that can be used in the engines of today and cleans the oceans! How cool is that?!
This entry was posted on Friday, December 12th, 2014 at 2:57 pm
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