The US Navy claims to have discovered a “game changing” technology that can make liquid hydrocarbon fuel from sea water.

Researchers from the US Naval Research Lab (NRL) have already developed a proof-of-concept of the technology for the “recovery of carbon dioxide and hydrogen from seawater and conversion to a liquid hydrocarbon fuel”, and have managed to fly a model aeroplane with an unmodified combustion engine on the seawater-based fuel in a test.

The technology uses a NRL electrolytic cation exchange module (E-CEM) to remove the carbon dioxide from the water while simultaneously producing hydrogen. The two gases are then converted to liquid hydrocarbons by a metal catalyst in a reactor system.

Dr. Heather Willauer, NRL research chemist, said:

“In close collaboration with the Office of Naval Research P38 Naval Reserve program, NRL has developed a game changing technology for extracting, simultaneously, CO2 and H2 from seawater.

This is the first time technology of this nature has been demonstrated with the potential for transition, from the laboratory, to full-scale commercial implementation.”

Whilst the test was successful, the technology is still seven to ten years from commercial viability, and the fuel produced by the process will cost £0.47 – £0.96 per litre.


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