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Solar-powered tower creates ‘first carbon neutral’ jet fuel

Solar-powered tower creates ‘first carbon neutral’ jet fuel
Scientists have invented a solar-powered fuel production system that they claim could help the aviation industry become carbon neutral.

Scientists have invented a solar-powered fuel production system that they claim could help the 航空業界 become carbon neutral.

The innovative tower design uses the Sun’s energy to facilitate the process of converting water (H20) and carbon dioxide (CO2) into liquid hydrocarbons like kerosene.

“We are the first to demonstrate the entire thermochemical process chain from water and CO2 to kerosene in a fully-integrated solar tower system,” said Professor Aldo Steinfeld from ETH Zurich.

“With our solar technology, we have shown that we can produce synthetic kerosene from water and CO2 instead of deriving it from fossil fuels.

<p>Solar tower fuel plant during operation</p>

Solar tower fuel plant during operation

Professor Steinfeld added: “The amount of CO2 emitted during kerosene combustion in a jet engine equals that consumed during its production in the solar plant.

“That makes the fuel carbon neutral, especially if we use CO2 captured directly from the air as an ingredient, hopefully in the not-too-distant future.”

The system forms part of the European Union’s SUN-to-LIQUID project, which aims to find synthetic alternatives to fossil-derived fuels.

理論的には, these synthetic fuels generate only as much CO2 during combustion as was removed from the atmosphere in their production. しかしながら, the production of machinery to create the fuels could create additional 炭素排出量.

If successfully implemented at scale, it could contribute to the decarbonisation of air transport, which accounts for roughly 5 per cent of global anthropogenic emissions causing climate change.

Experts have warned that carbon neutrality would not necessarily result in climate neutrality, with Professor Johan Lilliestam from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies telling On Carbon earlier this year that a plane’s contrails should also be taken into consideration.

“Contrails are of particular concern, as some estimates suggest they cause a similar amount of warming as carbon emissions from aviation," 彼は言った.

“It is not clear how large this effect is or how it can be controlled. しかしながら, because solar fuels are chemically cleaner than fossil fuels, burning solar fuels causes less soot, resulting in far fewer contrails. So solar fuels are better in that respect as well, probably much better, but there could be a small residual climate effect left over from cloud formation.”

The research was 公開 in the scientific journal Joule 水曜日に.