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Old 13.06.2019, 19:40
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Carbon-neutral fuel made from sunlight and air

Great to see this technology working in a real life setting. Making fuel (albeit only 100mL/day in the small testing reactor) from sunlight and air in the heart of Zürich, unbelievable.
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Old 13.06.2019, 20:48
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Re: Carbon-neutral fuel made from sunlight and air

I wonder how much energy/materials is used to produce a machine that makes 36.5 liters of fuel a year. Let's say this machine will last 20 years is it worth it including maintenance and such to actually run it, like is there a real profit for the environment. And if not will upscaling eventually reach a tipping point?

Nonetheless great idea and hope they get it to work on large scale in a way where it actually can make a difference, instead this becoming one of many ideas that goes silent eventually.
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Old 13.06.2019, 22:29
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Re: Carbon-neutral fuel made from sunlight and air

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I wonder how much energy/materials is used to produce a machine that makes 36.5 liters of fuel a year. Let's say this machine will last 20 years is it worth it including maintenance and such to actually run it, like is there a real profit for the environment. And if not will upscaling eventually reach a tipping point?

Nonetheless great idea and hope they get it to work on large scale in a way where it actually can make a difference, instead this becoming one of many ideas that goes silent eventually.
Well, this is a research plant - it's not yet a final product. I take it as a proof of concept under real life conditions. And we shouldn't expect every aspect of a new technology to be solved and perfected from the start anyways. They already have a larger plant (that produces syngas) in Spain where there is more sun - how much fuel it can produce is currently under evaluation.
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Old 14.06.2019, 09:30
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Re: Carbon-neutral fuel made from sunlight and air

I do hope this works. As I see it we need to pursue all avenues to reduce the need to take more oil and gas out of the ground, as there seem to be arguments for and against all renewable energy options. There was a Virgin Atlantic plane that flew on a synthetic 'clean fuel' in 2018 and I believe there is a process for making fuel out of air, sunlight and water in Canada and now the ETH model. The mid term benefit of such breakthroughs would be that instead of having to move 100% to electric vehicles asap, all the cars that run on diesel or petrol could use this fuel in the meantime. At least it buys us some time. Bring it all on!
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Old 14.06.2019, 15:27
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Re: Carbon-neutral fuel made from sunlight and air

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I do hope this works. As I see it we need to pursue all avenues to reduce the need to take more oil and gas out of the ground, as there seem to be arguments for and against all renewable energy options. There was a Virgin Atlantic plane that flew on a synthetic 'clean fuel' in 2018 and I believe there is a process for making fuel out of air, sunlight and water in Canada and now the ETH model. The mid term benefit of such breakthroughs would be that instead of having to move 100% to electric vehicles asap, all the cars that run on diesel or petrol could use this fuel in the meantime. At least it buys us some time. Bring it all on!
The problem with ICE vehicles is not only that the emit CO2, but that the emit many other toxins. This is just kicking the can down the road...
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Old 14.06.2019, 15:41
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Re: Carbon-neutral fuel made from sunlight and air

From the article:

“Theoretically, a plant the size of Switzerland – or a third of the Californian Mojave Desert – could cover the kerosene needs of the entire aviation industry..."

So, no environmental impact there then .
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Old 18.06.2019, 19:47
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Re: Carbon-neutral fuel made from sunlight and air

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I do hope this works. As I see it we need to pursue all avenues to reduce the need to take more oil and gas out of the ground, as there seem to be arguments for and against all renewable energy options. There was a Virgin Atlantic plane that flew on a synthetic 'clean fuel' in 2018 and I believe there is a process for making fuel out of air, sunlight and water in Canada and now the ETH model. The mid term benefit of such breakthroughs would be that instead of having to move 100% to electric vehicles asap, all the cars that run on diesel or petrol could use this fuel in the meantime. At least it buys us some time. Bring it all on!
Absolutely, I agree that we need to make progress in all branches of research. Just to clarify, making synthetic fuel from CO2 captured from air isn't new and has been around for quite some time (the same lab from ETH has shown that they can make syngas from air many years ago). As far as I know, similarly to the Canada-Harvard collaboration, those usually don't use sunlight but electrical energy, which of course can be from a re-newable source (e.g. hydro power). In the ETH process, the part of the reactor that actually reduces CO2 and essentially synthesizes the hydrocarbons is a solar reactor, which heats up to 1500 degree Celsius.

As you point out the benefit, apart from applications in aviation, is that not everyone will have to switch to electric vehicles asap (which still come with some downsides anyways). I could imagine that this will be increasingly important if a bigger share of the population in emerging countries will buy more cars. Those will most likely need to be affordable and as we know electrical cars (and the infrastructure for them) are not quite there yet. That's why I think it's also important that there is research trying to make cheap hybrid cars to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions (e.g. there is research on hybrid-pneumatic engines. In one specific example consumption goes down by around 25-30% with only a few hundred CHF extra costs).
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Old 18.06.2019, 20:00
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Re: Carbon-neutral fuel made from sunlight and air

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Absolutely, I agree that we need to make progress in all branches of research. Just to clarify, making synthetic fuel from CO2 captured from air isn't new and has been around for quite some time (the same lab from ETH has shown that they can make syngas from air many years ago). As far as I know, similarly to the Canada-Harvard collaboration, those usually don't use sunlight but electrical energy, which of course can be from a re-newable source (e.g. hydro power). In the ETH process, the part of the reactor that actually reduces CO2 and essentially synthesizes the hydrocarbons is a solar reactor, which heats up to 1500 degree Celsius.

As you point out the benefit, apart from applications in aviation, is that not everyone will have to switch to electric vehicles asap (which still come with some downsides anyways). I could imagine that this will be increasingly important if a bigger share of the population in emerging countries will buy more cars. Those will most likely need to be affordable and as we know electrical cars (and the infrastructure for them) are not quite there yet. That's why I think it's also important that there is research trying to make cheap hybrid cars to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions (e.g. there is research on hybrid-pneumatic engines. In one specific example consumption goes down by around 25-30% with only a few hundred CHF extra costs).
Find this truly fascinating. How's about toning it down to speak that the majority on EF will enjoy? Because, if you can do this, they will enjoy it.
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Old 19.06.2019, 09:08
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Re: Carbon-neutral fuel made from sunlight and air

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Absolutely, I agree that we need to make progress in all branches of research. Just to clarify, making synthetic fuel from CO2 captured from air isn't new and has been around for quite some time (the same lab from ETH has shown that they can make syngas from air many years ago). As far as I know, similarly to the Canada-Harvard collaboration, those usually don't use sunlight but electrical energy, which of course can be from a re-newable source (e.g. hydro power). In the ETH process, the part of the reactor that actually reduces CO2 and essentially synthesizes the hydrocarbons is a solar reactor, which heats up to 1500 degree Celsius.

As you point out the benefit, apart from applications in aviation, is that not everyone will have to switch to electric vehicles asap (which still come with some downsides anyways). I could imagine that this will be increasingly important if a bigger share of the population in emerging countries will buy more cars. Those will most likely need to be affordable and as we know electrical cars (and the infrastructure for them) are not quite there yet. That's why I think it's also important that there is research trying to make cheap hybrid cars to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions (e.g. there is research on hybrid-pneumatic engines. In one specific example consumption goes down by around 25-30% with only a few hundred CHF extra costs).
Agree with Scipio: another possible benefit is that governments could redirect car replacement subsidies to improving public transport and cycle lane infrastructure
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Old 19.06.2019, 11:13
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Re: Carbon-neutral fuel made from sunlight and air

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From the article:

“Theoretically, a plant the size of Switzerland – or a third of the Californian Mojave Desert – could cover the kerosene needs of the entire aviation industry..."

So, no environmental impact there then .
A great opportunity for the countries in and around the Sahara desert I mean why not ?
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Old 19.06.2019, 11:46
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Re: Carbon-neutral fuel made from sunlight and air

A practical option for Switzerland would be to make off peak rail travel free, and expand the rail network. Moving the fuel with the passengers, is a huge overhead. In a Tesla this is 1 tonne+ of battery infrastructure to move 80kg. In a car it is the fuel, fuel tank etc, etc. Electrified rail with no losses through tyres or moving fuel makes so much sense. edit: Thinking more about this, it is obscene having empty railway carriages travelling all over Switzerland day and night when train tickets are prohibitively expensive. You actually get charged a night supplement to add insult to injury. It is cheaper for me to take the car than the train (I service the car myself, use under 4 litres per 100km. With 2 people in the car it is a no brainer to take the car). By all means keep first class prices where they are.

Last edited by p42; 19.06.2019 at 13:20.
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