Technology

Scientists have been able to turn light and air into liquid fuel.

Today, we know a lotways to get different types of fuel without resorting to the use of hydrocarbons produced from the earth's interior. And, despite the fact that developments in the field of providing mankind with the same alternative energy through solar cells are already being successfully introduced into world practice, scientists are not abandoning attempts to find other equally effective methods. And recently, a group of experts from Switzerland, who have developed a new technology for the production of liquid hydrocarbon fuel exclusively from sunlight and air, have succeeded.

Why do you need it?

First of all, such developments will helpmake some of the most dangerous for the environment modes of transport (namely, marine and aviation) more environmentally friendly. The fact is that today, for sea and river vessels, as well as for various types of aviation, fuel based on hydrocarbons produced in the process of oil refining is used. Not only is the process of extracting black gold difficult to call useful for our planet, but also the creation of energy-efficient fuels is accompanied by the formation of harmful products that pollute the atmosphere of our planet.

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Solar plant produces syntheticliquid fuel, which, during combustion, emits as much carbon dioxide (CO2) as it was previously extracted from the air for its production. That is, in fact, we have almost environmentally friendly product.

How it works

The system extracts carbon dioxide and water directly fromambient air and separates them using solar energy. This process results in the production of the so-called synthesis gas, a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, which is then converted into kerosene, methanol and other hydrocarbons by simple chemical reactions. These fuels can be used in existing transport infrastructure.


This parabolic reflector, mounted on the roof of the Swiss Higher Technical School of Zurich, “collects” light and directs it to two reactors located in the middle of the installation.

"Our installation proves thatcarbon-neutral hydrocarbon fuels can be made from sunlight and air in real field conditions, ”explains the head of the project, Professor Aldo Steinfeld. "The thermochemical process uses the entire solar spectrum and takes place at high temperatures, ensuring fast reactions and high efficiency."


Directly the very "mini-plant" for the synthesis of fuel. It produces about one deciliter of fuel per day (a little less than half a cup)

Steinfeld and his group are already working onlarge-scale testing of its solar reactor on the basis of a large plant for collecting sunlight in the suburbs of Madrid as part of the Sun-to-Liquid project. The next goal of the group is to scale the technology for industrial implementation and make it economically competitive.

"Solar installation, occupying an area of ​​onea square kilometer can produce 20,000 liters of kerosene per day, ”says another author, Philippe Ferler. “Theoretically, a plant the size of Switzerland or one third the size of the California Mojave Desert could cover the kerosene needs of the entire aviation industry. Our goal is to efficiently produce fuel with new technology to significantly reduce global carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere. ”

The principle of the installation

The technological chain of the new system includes three processes:

  • Extraction of carbon dioxide and water from the air.
  • Solar thermochemical splitting of carbon dioxide and water.
  • Their subsequent liquefaction in hydrocarbons.

The adsorption process (i.e. absorption) extractscarbon dioxide and water immediately from the surrounding air. Both substrates are then placed in a solar reactor, which is based on a ceramic structure made of cerium oxide. The temperature inside the solar reactor is 1500 degrees Celsius. These conditions allow during the two-step reaction to break down water and carbon dioxide with the formation of synthesis gas. As mentioned above, synthesis gas is a mixture of hydrogen and carbon, which in turn can be used to produce liquid hydrocarbon fuels.

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