Synthetic Kerosene For Planes From Water, Sunlight And Co2

The SUN-to-LIQUID project begins and aims to produce synthetic kerosene from the oxidation-reduction of water and CO2 through a reactor powered by concentrated solar energy.

The massive use of renewable fuel produced with the SUN-to-LIQUID system would lead to a 90% reduction in aircraft emissions.

Water, sun and CO2 could soon become the only ingredients needed to fly airplanes: researchers from the SUN-to-LIQUID project are convinced that for the first time they have been able to generate a renewable jet fuel using only solar energy concentrate and a reactor capable of producing synthetic gas (carbon monoxide and hydrogen) through the oxidation and thermochemical reduction of water and CO2.

The project, which began in 2016 with funding from the European Horizon 2020 research program, has involved the construction of a large-scale production plant in Spain, at the IMDEA Technology Park in Móstoles, near Madrid.

The technology is based on the synergy of 3 systems: solar radiation is reflected in a field of solar mirrors towards a tower 15 meters high, at the top of which a small solar reactor is fixed that, through thermochemical conversion, takes advantage of the very high temperatures (above 1,500 ° C) to produce synthetic gas, a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, which in turn is compressed, brought to a liquid state and transformed into kerosene in situ.

Reflected sunlight reaches a concentration equal to 2,500 times that of direct sunlight or 3 times that used by modern photovoltaic systems. Guaranteed heat throughout the day thanks to the solar monitoring system with which the 169 panels of the Madrid plant are equipped.

The solar reactor, developed by the Swiss company ETH Zurich, reaches the pre-commercial scale of 50kW.

The high quality synthetic gases produced by the thermochemical reaction are compressed by a special plant built by partner HyGear and transformed by the Fischer-Tropsch process into liquid fuels, already certified for use in aircraft. During 291 cycles of oxidation reduction, the SUN-to-LIQUID team produced more than 700 liters of synthetic gas, which was then converted into naphtha, diesel and kerosene.

The energy efficiency of the light gas conversion process at the Mostoles plant exceeds 30% in the best possible conditions (that is, using the entire solar field and reaching temperatures favorable to thermodynamic reactions), but the researchers intend to improve it even further through the application of more efficient materials and the construction of reactors on an industrial scale.

The large-scale use of the fuels produced by the process developed in the SUN-to-LIQUID project would reduce more than 90% of the emissions produced by the aviation sector. It is, therefore, a particularly attractive innovation for a sector that is currently among the most polluting and with the fewest alternatives in terms of sustainable propellants, but which can also be of great interest for heavy road transport and transport. maritime transport, which are also sectors that are among the main emitters.

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