U.S. Navy Converts Seawater Into Jet Fuel And Successfully Flies Aircraft

Credit: General Atomics
Credit: General Atomics

Researchers at the United States Naval Research Laboratory have developed an innovative method for extracting carbon dioxide and producing hydrogen to create one thing: hydrocarbon liquid fuel. The fuel powers jet engines without generating additional harmful byproducts.

The research began over a decade ago and was powered by the need for an alternative method of refueling U.S. Navy vessels underway, which can be costly when considering time, logistics, and potential national security dangers.

Dr. Heather Willauer, the lead investigator for the research lab, said,

“The potential payoff is the ability to produce JP-5 fuel stock at sea reducing the logistics tail on fuel delivery with no environmental burden and increasing the Navy’s energy security and independence.”

It’s a complicated process, but the two-step procedure has up to a 60 percent conversion rate from carbon dioxide to hydrogen and they have decreased the production of unwanted methane from 97 percent to 25 percent.

Credit: Anon HQ
Credit: Anon HQ

To test the effectiveness of the fuel, the researchers used a radio-controlled scale-model replica of a World War II aircraft that is complete with an internal combustion engine. The experiment went well, and hopefully the results translate equally into a real jet.

The majority of U.S. Navy vessels today require oil-based fuels, which can be tough to deal with because of price fluctuations and potential shortages.

Vice Admiral Philip Cullom said this of the technology:

“It’s a huge milestone for us. We are in very challenging times where we really do have to think in pretty innovative ways to look at how we create energy, how we value energy and how we consume it. We need to challenge the results of the assumptions that are the result of the last six decades of constant access to cheap, unlimited amounts of fuel.”

The process isn’t perfect yet, as it is extremely energy-intensive and not commercially viable, although for being such a new technology it is economically comparable to oil at $3-6 per gallon. It should be viable in the next 10 years, but there are still unanswered questions about whether this is the best alternative for fueling.

Some have pointed to the amount of water it will take to support many of the naval vessels and the harm it could have on marine ecosystems. There’s still more research that needs to be conducted, but considering the budget and power the Department of Defense has, it’s likely that nothing will stand in their way.

What are your thoughts on this new technology? Please share, like, and comment on this article!

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