Engineers unveil way of making petrol from air
A small company in the north of England has developed the 'air capture' technology to create synthetic petrol using only air and electricity.
Experts have hailed the astonishing breakthrough as a potential 'game changer' in the battle against climate change and a saviour for the world's energy crisis.
The technology, presented to a London engineering conference, removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
The 'petrol from air' technology involves taking sodium hydroxide and mixing it with carbon dioxide before 'electrolysing' the sodium carbonate that it produces to form pure carbon dioxide.
Hydrogen is then produced by electrolysing water vapour captured with a dehumidifier.
The company, Air Fuel Synthesis, then uses the carbon dioxide and hydrogen to produce methanol which in turn is passed through a gasoline fuel reactor, creating petrol.
Company officials say they produced five litres of petrol in less than three months from a small refinery in Stockton-on-Tees in England's north east.
The fuel that is produced can be used in any regular petrol tank and, if renewable energy is used to provide the electricity it could become "completely carbon neutral".
The £1.1m (€1.35m) project, in development for the past two years, is being funded by a group of unnamed philanthropists who believe the technology could prove to be a lucrative way of creating renewable energy.
While the technology has the backing of Britain's Institution of Mechanical Engineers, it has yet to capture the interest of major oil companies.
But company executives hope to build a large plant which could produce more than a tonne of petrol every day within two years, and a refinery-sized operation within 15 years.
Dr Tim Fox, the organisation's head of energy and environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers , said: "Air capture technology ultimately has the potential to become a game changer in our quest to avoid dangerous climate change."
Peter Harrison, the 58-year-old chief executive of Air Fuel Synthesis, said: "It looks and smells like petrol but it is much cleaner and we don't have any nasty bits." (© Daily Telegraph, London)