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British scientists have invented a method of obtaining aviation fuel from carbon dioxide. The new method, if used on an industrial scale, could help in the fight against harmful emissions.

A team of scientists from Oxford University has published an article in Nature Communications magazine, in which they presented an experimental technology for converting carbon dioxide into aviation fuel.

The experiment was carried out in a stainless steel reactor. CO2 was added to heated (up to 350°C)with hydrogen, citric acid and a catalyst consisting of iron, manganese and potassium.

Although the amount of fuel produced by this technology was symbolic and amounted to just several grams, in the future and after improvement, this method could be used to capture large quantities of greenhouse gases from vehicles, industrial plants and ultimately, even directly from the air.

Tiancun Xiao, co-author of the experiment, claims that the new Oxford technology is cheaper than the current methods of creating fuel from water and hydrogen due to lower electricity consumption.

Xiao added that, if the technology becomes widely used, plants producing aviation fuel using this method could be built next to industrial plants or power plants, so that CO2 emitted from the latter would be processed effectively immediately.

A matter of scale

While the laboratory experiment was successful, the fundamental question is the scalability and cost-effectiveness of this method. Will it be possible to use it on an industrial scale?

The by-products of the conversion are light olefins such as ethylene, propylene and butynes. They are important raw materials for the petrochemical industry and are currently only obtained from oil.

The new technology could help reduce the negative impact of the aviation sector on the environment, both by reducing CO2 emissions and by enabling a cleaner fuel production process.

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