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Making fuel from air

 
Anonymous Coward
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01/26/2013 10:58 PM
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Making fuel from air
A small company working in two converted shipping containers says it has found a way to make petrol from fresh air and water. Air Fuel Synthesis Chief Executive Peter Harrison says the process could help curb climate change by providing a cleaner alternative to oil.

"We've taken carbon dioxide from air and hydrogen from water and turned these elements into petrol," he told Al Jazeera. "For a country like the UK it means we could create all the fuel you want from renewable energy."

The 58-year-old civil engineer, who used to work in the offshore oil industry, describes it as an amazing project to be involved with.

Harrison explained that they use a 30 foot tower on top of their first container to capture CO2 from the air. The process of separation involves combining the air with sodium hydroxide and passing it through an electrolyser.

A similar method is used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The CO2 and hydrogen are then synthesised to make methanol, and eventually petrol.

It cost them around $800,000 to build the plant. Since the mini-refinery was switched on in August, they have made 15 litres of fuel that could be used to power any normal car.

The barrier to expansion is that the process uses lots of power. Much more energy is fed into the plant, in the form of electricity, than is extracted from it.

Because of this, Lee Cronin, professor of chemistry at the University of Glasgow, is cautious about its potential.

"The bottom line - making very optimistic assumptions about their efficiency, if this company was to scale up to produce enough gasoline to meet demand in the USA, it would require half the world's energy consumption every day," he said. "That is clearly not practical.”

[link to www.aljazeera.com]

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