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Chemistry: Converting carbon dioxide into jet fuel

Nature Communications

December 23, 2020

The conversion of gaseous carbon dioxide (CO2) directly into jet fuel using inexpensive iron-based catalysts, is demonstrated in a paper in Nature Communications this week. As this CO2 is captured directly from the air, and would be re-emitted from jet fuels when combusted in flight, this raises the possibility in the future of the overall effect being carbon neutral.

Producing carbon-neutral fuel and high value-added chemicals is important in mitigating the harmful effects of CO2 on our atmosphere. However, converting CO2 selectively into a desirable chemical is a challenging task. Often this conversion requires expensive catalysts or several energy-demanding steps, which ultimately prove less efficient and less cost-effective. To rival fossil fuels, a sustainable fuel-producing method must be efficient and economical.

Peter Edwards, Tiancun Xiao, Benzhen Yao and colleagues designed a new iron-based catalyst that represents an inexpensive way of directly capturing atmospheric CO2 and converting it into a jet fuel range of hydrocarbons. The catalyst is composed of elements abundant on Earth, and also demonstrates high activity and selectivity, which minimizes additional steps in the synthesis of high value-added chemicals. The authors were also able to collect other important raw materials for the petrochemical industry during the conversion process, which are currently only available from crude oil.

The CO2 conversion catalyst is easier to prepare than many previous candidates, which makes it a potential candidate for industrial applications, they conclude.

doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-20214-z

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