Solar plant produces kerosene from sunlight, water and CO2

June 17, 2019 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Solar plant produces kerosene from sunlight, water and CO2
The conversion from fossil to renewable fuels is one of the most important challenges of the future. The Sun-to-Liquid project addresses this issue by enabling the production of renewable kerosene from water and atmospheric CO2 using concentrated sunlight. The project, which is funded by the European Union and Switzerland, was the first to produce solar kerosene under industrial conditions.

The aim of the Sun-to-Liquid research project is to produce synthetic fuels from water and CO2 using the Fischer-Tropsch process, which has been known for almost 100 years. These fuels could be used in transport (road traffic, aviation). Because the fuel produced could be used in existing combustion engines and aircraft turbines, researchers see this as a way to a CO2-neutral traffic turnaround. In particular, aviation, where the product life of aircraft and turbines is several decades, would benefit from this. The problem so far has been that the process is very energy-intensive and therefore could hardly be used on a large scale.

The success of the Sun-to-Liquid project could bring the production of synthetic fuels a step closer to industrial feasibility. According to project coordinator Andreas Sizmann of the Bauhaus Luftfahrt research institute, this technology could have a major impact on the transport sector, especially for aviation and shipping, which continue to rely on liquid fuels over long distances. "We have come one step closer to the goal of living on a sustainable energy income instead of burning our fossil energy heritage," said Sizmann.

"The sun-to-liquid reactor technology and the integrated chemical plant have been validated under the typical conditions for industrial fuel production," explains Prof. Aldo Steinfeld of ETH Zurich university, who is leading the development of the solar thermochemical reactor that is central to the project.

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