To produce an aerofuel, CO2 and H2O are separated from air and chemically recycled to a specific hydrocarbon like CH4 (natural gas).
These synthetic fuels are molecularly identical to fossil fuels but release zero net CO2 emissions when burned.
In 1897, it was discovered that the unreactive CO2 molecule could be broken apart under specific conditions. Under enough heat and pressure, and in the presence of hydrogen and a metal catalyst, the Sabatier reaction takes place:
This process is also referred to as reverse combustion because it recycles CO2 (released from burning fuel) into CH4 (fuel) that can be burned again.
In 1965, a U.S. national lab proposed using nuclear energy to extract CO2 from air and convert it to CH3OH (methanol).
In 2009, the U.S. agency ARPA-E began investigating green electrofuels (made with electrolytic hydrogen) as a pathway to national energy security.
However, the 2010s fracking boom saturated the country with inexpensive natural gas and obviated the need for electrofuel research projects.
The global energy crisis has reignited the push for a technological, decentralized solution to our paralyzing dependence on fossil fuels.
Aerofuel technology merges direct air CO2 capture and conversion to hydrocarbons in a single system, pioneering the field of direct air conversion.