The interest of the US air force has been caught by the tech company Twelve’s project that allows the manufacture of a carbon-neutral aviation fuel called E-Jet. It can be used at any place, and it uses carbon dioxide from the air, water, and renewable energy.
Usually, the supply lines of energy, fuel, and water are the main targets for the opposing forces. The US Air Force stated that the attacks on fuel and water convoys in Afghanistan amounted to 30 percent of coalition casualties.
This process is being called “industrial photosynthesis” and makes use of the polymer electrolyte membrane electrolysis. It is a kind of inverted fuel cell, with a metal catalyst installed on a cathode to break down carbon dioxide and water into their component ions and then convert them into oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon monoxide.
Afterward, they undergo the Fischer-Tropsch process, which is a series of reactions made in Germany in the 1920s. In turn, it transforms them into methane and then complex organic molecules like polyethylene, ethanol, ethylene, methane, polypropylene, and now, jet fuel.
The pilot phase is scheduled to be done by December and the results will then be analyzed. If the report says that it can be used for military purposes, the USAF will potentially produce synthetic fuel onsite without the need for coal, natural gas, or biofuel. If all goes well, it may even use water from the atmosphere to make the fuel.
Taking it further will include scaling up the process to make practical supplies of the fuel, which can be mixed with traditional fuel in ratios of up to 50 percent. There are still some limitations like the development of an eco-friendly way to power the whole process.
“My office is looking at a number of initiatives to not only optimize aviation fuel use for improved combat capability but to reduce the logistics burden as well,” says Roberto Guerrero, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for operational energy. “We’re excited about the potential of carbon transformation to support this effort and Twelve’s technology – as one of the tools in our toolbox – could help us get there.”