‘Miraculous’ Cleantech Changes Water into Fuel

by Matt Klassen on November 20, 2014

As the world awakens to the reality that fossil fuels won’t be able to sustain our current consumption rates for very long we’ve already seen a number of automakers delving into various cleantech options, whether its Tesla Motors’ innovative electric cars to Toyota’s new hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, Mirai. But the reality is that such technology is years, perhaps decades away, from mass adoption, as there’s simply too much infrastructure and technology already in place that supports the use of fossil fuels.

It’s this languorous pace of change that has many looking for stopgap solutions, ones that could conceivably help relieve the burden on Mother Earth while still utilizing the current petroleum-centric infrastructure we have in place, and one German cleantech company may have found such a solution, creating synthetic fossil fuels.

Now granted it may not be on par with changing water into wine, but Dresden-based Sunfire, a renewable energy firm, has unveiled a machine that does something almost as miraculous: changing water into fuel.

The first of its kind, Sunfire’s machine utilizes what the company calls “Power-to-Liquid” technology to convert H2O and CO2—that is water and carbon dioxide—into synthetic fossil fuels like gasoline, diesel, and kerosene.

As CNET’s Michelle Starr explains, “The technique is based around the Fischer-Tropsch process developed in 1925, combined with solid oxide electrolyser cells (SOECs). The SOECs are used to convert electricity — supplied by renewable sources such as wind and solar — to steam. Oxygen is removed from this steam to produce hydrogen.”

“In the next step of the process,” Starr writes, “this hydrogen is used to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) — harvested from the atmosphere, precipitated at biogas facilities or gathered using waste gas processing — to carbon monoxide (CO); and the resultant H2 and CO are then synthesized into high-purity fuel using the Fischer-Tropsch process. Excess heat from the process is then used to create more steam — ensuring an efficiency rate, Sunfire claims, of 70 percent.”

Of course like any other fledgling technology Sunfire’s water-to-fuel machine is both cost prohibitive—to build and operate cost the company “seven figures”—and insufficient, in that it currently is only able to recycle about 3.2 tons of CO2 per day, creating about one barrel of fuel per day.

But what the technology does show us is that such a stopgap solution is feasible, and could be designed on an industrial scale within a relatively short time, allowing the world to continue to utilize its fossil fuel infrastructure, but with synthetically produced fuels.

“This rig enables us to prove technical feasibility on an industrial scale,” said Sunfire CTO Christian von Olshausen. “It is now a matter of regulatory factors falling into place in a way which gives investors a sufficient level of planning reliability. Once that has occurred it will be possible to commence the step-by-step substitution of fossil fuels. If we want to achieve fuel autonomy in the long term, we need to get started today.”

While granted this isn’t the normal fare for TheTelecomblog, it is the sort of thing that everyone needs to know about, both the fact that dependence on fossil fuels will eventually be our undoing and that we do have solutions to the problem, if only the right people would start to see them.

Did you like this post ? TheTelecomBlog.com publishes daily news, editorial, thoughts, and controversial opinion – you can subscribe by: RSS (click here), or email (click here).

Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: