According to New Atlas,The U.S. Air Force is studying the feasibility of a process developed by the technology company Twelve, which can use carbon dioxide, water and renewable energy in the air anywhere on the planet to create a carbon-neutral aviation called E-Jet fuel.
The Air Force is often constrained by supply lines that transport and store the fuel needed to keep its aircraft in the air. When it comes to providing fuel to distant bases, this is not only expensive and complicated, but also dangerous because this supply line is the main target of enemy forces. According to the US Air Force, attacks on fuel and water convoys in Afghanistan accounted for 30% of coalition casualties.
As an alternative, the US Air Force is looking for a way to make its base at least partially independent of external fuel sources through a deployable and scalable synthesis process, without requiring a large number of experts to operate.
The process developed by Twelve is called “industrial photosynthesis” by the company and uses polymer electrolyte membrane electrolysis. This is an inverted fuel cell with a metal catalyst installed on the cathode to decompose carbon dioxide and water into their components. Ions, and then convert them into oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon monoxide.
Then these substances are passed through the Fischer-Tropsch synthesis process (a series of processes developed in Germany in the 1920s), and they are converted into methane in steps, and then into more and more complex organic molecules, such as polyethylene, ethanol, ethylene, Methane, polypropylene, and jet fuel starting in August 2021.
The current trial phase is expected to be completed in December, and then the results will be evaluated. If the technology is practical in the military, it will mean that the US Air Force will be able to produce synthetic fuels on site without the need for coal, natural gas or biofuels. According to Twelve, it may even collect not only carbon dioxide from the air, but also water.
The U.S. Air Force plans to expand the scale of this process to produce a practical fuel supply, which can be mixed with conventional fuels up to 50%. However, there are still some basic issues that need to be resolved-the most important of which is to find a renewable way to power the process.
“My office is studying some measures not only to optimize the use of aviation fuel to improve combat capabilities, but also to reduce the logistical burden,” said Roberto Guerrero, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Combat Energy of the US Air Force. “We are excited about the potential of carbon conversion to support this effort, and Twelve’s technology-as a tool in our toolbox-can help us achieve this goal.”