Will we shortly be able to stop drilling oil and get fuels straight from the water around us?
That’s been promoted for many decades now, but we may be getting closer.
The US Naval Research Lab announced this week that they have a way of converting carbon dioxide and hydrogen from seawater into hydrocarbon fuels. And used it to power a radio controlled airplane.
They do this using a catalytic converter. While they claim they could produce jet fuel at US$3-6 per gallon (its currently $2.90), commercial production is probably at least a decade away. What they don’t go into is the amount of energy needed for the conversion process.
Quite a few media reports have been inferring that the development will enable navies to do away with ship refuelling, though this isn’t what the Navy is saying, and it seems that they’ll focus first on providing jet fuel. So they may need their nuclear-powered carriers to run the process.
In a separate development, Stanford University has announced another catalytic process that converts carbon monoxide and water into ethanol with high efficiency. Although they first need to convert carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide through a separate process (preferably using more efficient processes than currently available).
So both interesting and potentially workable developments, but considerable more R&D and work required before we can hook our cars, boats and planes up to our water systems.