Gas to First Class

Plane coming in for landing.

Fight carbon dioxide with…flight?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Back during the Renaissance, alchemists tried to turn metal into gold. No, it didn’t work – but what about some modern-day alchemy? Planes in flight burn fossil fuels, creating carbon dioxide. But could CO2 be “transformed” into something useful?

Tiancun Xiao and an international team wondered – what about turning it BACK into JET FUEL?? 

For all us non-chemists, Jet fuel is made up of carbon atoms linked together, called hydrocarbons. Carbon dioxide is made up of carbon and oxygen. The alchemists — I mean researchers — cooked up a chemical catalyst from iron, manganese, and potassium. When activated, the catalyst replaced the oxygen on the carbon DIOXIDE with hydrogen – creating a chain of hydrocarbons. Eureka! JET FUEL!!

This process produces jet fuel nearly HALF the time! Other times it creates useful byproducts, like methane, which helps heat your home. 

Catalysts like this one could help turn CO2 into recycled energy gold!

News like this just makes my heart soar!

Reference: Yao, B., Xiao, T., Makgae, O.A. et al. Transforming carbon dioxide into jet fuel using an organic combustion-synthesized Fe-Mn-K catalyst. Nat Commun 11, 6395 (2020).