Can aviation fuel ‘syngas’, which can be produced even in the desert, be a solution to environmental pollution?

Thanks to a new technology developed in Switzerland, it was noted that the liquid, known as syngas, obtained from the mixture of sunlight and air, can be used as kerosene as aviation fuel.

The mechanism installed on the roof of ETH Zurich University may be the beginning of a brand new solution to this problem of aircraft, which is one of the vehicles that cause the most emissions.

How does the fully sustainable and naturally produced syngas work and what kind of technology does it have?

Synthesis gas, also known as synthetic gas, is a fuel gas mixture containing components such as carbon dioxide, methane, primarily hydrogen and carbon monoxide.

Syngas, which is mostly used in electricity generation, can also be used as fuel in internal combustion engines thanks to its flammable feature. The first example of this is II. It happened during World War II, because of the lack of gasoline, syngas was used instead of gasoline.

Synthesis gas, which does not emit carbon, is produced in 3 stages. First, an air capture device absorbs carbon dioxide and water from the air. Then the solar units obtain energy from sunlight. When these two elements combine, a mixture of carbon monoxide and oxygen is obtained, and this mixture is liquefied to obtain a kind of gasoline, namely “synthesis gas”, also known as “solar kerosene”.

The synthesis gas project, which started its testing phase for the first time in 2019, received a “reliable and robust” report by Swiss scientists this week.

The project, which was published in The Nature, one of the prestigious scientific journals, was carried out by ETH Zurich University Sustainable Energy Resources Department Head Prof. Dr. It is led by Aldo Steinfeld.

Steinfeld, who is also a mechanical engineer, stated that the mini fuel plant they established successfully passed the technical feasibility tests and said, “The whole thermal-chemical process of obtaining liquid fuel by blending sunlight and air was successful.” he said.

Stating that the system is quite robust and functional under the current sunlight and climatic conditions, Prof. Dr. “Our work is promising, and this uniquely proprietary system can be further developed in the future,” Steinfeld said. said.

According to Steinfeld, the currently developed system is mature enough to be implemented in real life. But someone needs to invest in this business. Because currently, fossil kerosene polluting the environment is obtained in a much cheaper way than syngas, which is environmentally friendly and causes zero emissions. In this respect, synthesis gas is very similar to liquid hydrogen, which is also an environmentally friendly fuel type.

If the syngas in question is invested and used widely in the field of aircraft and shipping, the negative impact of these transportation vehicles, which cause 8 percent of global warming, will be prevented.

Syngas is different from biofuels, it can also be produced in the desert

Studies have shown that when syngas is produced industrially in large quantities, its cost per liter can reach up to 1.2-2 euros.

The production cost per liter of the fossil fuel kerosene we know is 0.4 euro. prof. Dr. Steinfeld states that especially sunny regions with a desert climate are very suitable for production.

Johan Liliestam, Head of the advanced Institute for Sustainable Studies at the University of Potsdam near Berlin, says the technology has many advantages.

Stating that Liliestam syngas has a great advantage over biofuels, he said, “Synthesis gas is much different from biofuels. Because biofuels are very limited and difficult to produce due to the scarcity of agricultural lands. However, thanks to this technology, it can meet the global jet fuel demand by using less than one percent of the world’s arid lands. This technology also has no potential to negatively impact food or animal feed production like biofuels.” says.

If the iron, glass and other construction works to be used in the power plant to be established in order to produce the synthesis gas in large quantities are done with sustainable sources, the emission rate can be reduced to almost zero.

How does synthesis gas affect the aviation industry?

Systems built on solar energy currently do not benefit from sufficient European Union funds. prof. Dr. Instead, Lilliestam underlines that airline companies can directly support such projects.

Aldo Steinfeld states that if even 0.1 percent of the fuels used in the aviation industry are obtained from sustainable energy, it will directly contribute to the marketing strategies of the airline companies and will greatly reduce the emission rate.

Syngas can be gradually used as aviation fuel in the near future. In this way, both the greenhouse gas effect of traditional kerosene gradually decreases and this environmentally friendly fuel becomes widespread in the sector, albeit slowly.

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