With the first ever production of synthesized “solar” jet fuel, the EU-funded SOLAR-JET project has successfully demonstrated the entire production chain for renewable kerosene obtained directly from sunlight, water and carbon dioxide (CO2), therein potentially revolutionizing the future of aviation. This process has also the potential to produce any other type of fuel for transport applications, such as diesel, gasoline or pure hydrogen in a more sustainable way.
Several notable research organizations from academia through to industry (ETH Zürich, Bauhaus Luftfahrt, Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), ARTTIC and Shell Global Solutions) have explored a thermochemical pathway driven by concentrated solar energy. A new solar reactor technology has been pioneered to produce liquid hydrocarbon fuels suitable for more sustainable transportation.
“Increasing environmental and supply security issues are leading the aviation sector to seek alternative fuels which can be used interchangeably with today’s jet fuel, so-called drop-in solutions”, states Dr. Andreas Sizmann, the project coordinator at Bauhaus Luftfahrt. “With this first-ever proof-of-concept for ‘solar’ kerosene, the SOLAR-JET project has made a major step towards truly sustainable fuels with virtually unlimited feedstocks in the future.
The SOLAR-JET project demonstrated an innovative process technology using concentrated sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water to a so-called synthesis gas (syngas). This is accomplished by means of a redox cycle with metal-oxide based materials at high temperatures. The syngas, a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, is finally converted into kerosene by using commercial Fischer-Tropsch technology.