The search for renewable energy sources is varied and sometimes strange and here is another one to add to the strange category: turning seawater into kerosene-based jet fuel. Who would research something like this? Look no further than our very own U.S. Navy. Navy chemists have processed seawater into unsaturated short-chain hydrocarbons that with further refining could be made into jet fuel. The catch? They will now have to discover a clean energy source to power the reaction if the end product is to be carbon neutral.
The process, according to a report from New Scientist, involves extracting CO2 dissolved in the water and then combining it with hydrogen. The hydrogen is produced by splitting water molecules using electricity (hopefully not coal based) to make a hydrocarbon fuel. For those scientists out there, you’ve probably already figured out that this is a variant of the Fischer-Tropsch process which is currently used to produce a gasoline-like hydrocarbon fuel for syngas.
The project is headed by Robert Dorner who is a chemist with the Naval Research Laboratory based in Washington, D.C. Dorner, along with several other researchers have published a paper on the project, “Catalytic CO2 hydrogenation to feedstock chemicals for jet fuel synthesis“.
Dorner notes that CO2 is not often used in the Fischer-Tropsch process due to its instability but due to its abundance and concerns about global climate change, it becomes a feedstock of interest.