The two step process begins with the extraction of carbon dioxide and hydrogen from seawater. Scientists let the liquid pass through a cell which is subjected to an electric current.
The seawater is next acidified by exchanging hydrogen ions produced at the anode with sodium ions. Meanwhile, the water is reduced to hydrogen gas at the cathode, and sodium hydroxide is formed. The sodium hydroxide is then added to the leftover seawater to neutralize its acidity.
In the second step, the hydrogen and carbon dioxide are passed into a heated reaction chamber with an iron catalyst. The gases combine and form long-chained unsaturated hydrocarbons with methane. Longer hydrocarbon molecules containing six to nine carbon atoms are then formed from the unsaturated hydrocarbons. These are then turned into fuel using a nickel-supported catalyst.
The cost of fuel is estimated to range from three to six dollars per gallon. Preliminary tests flying a radio-controlled plane using sea fuel have succeeded. The fuel could eventually be used for any vehicle without having to modify engines.
ST Staff Writers
This post was prepared by Solar Thermal Magazine staff.