An emerging British company announced it had developed a technology that allows to produce fuel from air and water.More precisely, from hydrogen and carbon dioxide, the substance that is often blamed for climate change.The product is methanol, which can be processed to produce fuels used in automobile engines.
The principle employed by Air Fuel Synthesis is not new, although no research group has been able to make it work viably.Despite being hailed by the press as “gasoline made of air” – the name of the company suggests it – the process is far from efficient, and even share of total enthusiasm within the scientific community that seeks alternatives to oil that are environmentally sustainable.
The prototype manufactured by the company has been in operation since August.Running on a continuous scale, he produced five liters of fuel since.The project now is to build a larger reactor, capable of producing one ton of fuel per day, which will depend on agreements with “potential technology partners and investors,” the company said.
The company says it is possible to build this reactor at pilot scale in two years. A refinery on a commercial scale, however, will still take 15 years of further research and improvements.The production of liquid fuel from hydrogen and CO2 would be an alternative for countries without oil reserves, although, at this stage, it is not possible to estimate the cost of methanol produced by this route.
The technical breakthrough achieved by researchers from British company is significant.But some caveats are important precisely because they are results announced by a company and are being transferred by the mainstream media as the solution technique was already a product available to consumers.
Cars without pollution
Despite representing a concept that can replace oil, the process is far from being one of the best alternatives in the field of so-called clean energy.This is because the hydrogen required for the reaction is produced by electrolysis of water, which consumes a lot of electricity.
If the goal is to move cars, it makes more sense to use that electricity, properly stored in batteries , to power electric vehicles directly without conversion losses.In the end, electric vehicles emit no pollution, while the cars powered by gasoline derived from new synthesis route fuel continue emitting pollutants just like today.
The production of hydrogen is one of the major bottlenecks that technology can enable called hydrogen economy .In this case, what is proposed is the use of hydrogen in fuel cells , which produce electricity directly, emitting only water vapor as a byproduct.Recently, a U.S. team has demonstrated the feasibility of a similar principle, but much more interesting from all points of view.The process also uses CO2 and hydrogen, but hydrogen is produced by solar energy. The final product is isobutanol.
Theoretically, the hydrogen produced by solar energy can be used in the conversion of CO2 to synthesize liquid fuels with high energy density, which can also be done using genetically modified microorganisms.