An EU-funded research project called Solar Jet has produced the world’s first ‘solar’ jet fuel from water and carbon dioxide. Researchers have successfully demonstrated the entire production chain for renewable kerosene using concentrated light as a hightemperature energy source. The project is still at an experimental stage and just a glassful of jet fuel was produced in lab conditions using simulated sunlight. The four-year Solar-Jet project was launched in June 2011 and is receiving 2.2 million EU funding from the Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development.
In the next phase of the project, the partners plan to optimize the solar reactor and assess whether the technology will work on a larger scale and at competitive cost. Finding new, sustainable sources of energy will remain a priority under Horizon 2020, the seven-year EU research and innovation programme launched on Jan 1, 2014.
European commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Maire Geoghegan-Quinn said, “This technology means we might one day produce cleaner and plentiful fuel for planes, cars and other forms of transport. This could greatly increase energy security and turn one of the main greenhouse gases responsible for global warming into a useful resource.”
Concentrated light— simulating sunlight —was used to convert carbon dioxide and water to synthesis gas (syngas ) in a high-temperature solar reactor containing metaloxide based materials developed at ETH Zurich . The syngas (a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide) was then converted into kerosene by Shell.
Although producing syngas through concentrated solar radiation is still at an early stage of development, the processing of syngas to kerosene is being deployed by companies including Shell on a global scale. Combining the two approaches has the potential to provide secure, sustainable and scalable supplies of aviation fuel as well as diesel and gasoline, or even plastics.