Researchers power scale model P-51 Mustang with fuel created from seawater

Being able to turn water into fuel for vehicles is something that has been a dream of researchers for decades. A team of researchers at the US Naval Research Laboratory, Materials and Science division, have demonstrated a proof of concept for a fuel created from seawater. The team developed a process for the recovery of carbon dioxide and hydrogen from seawater that was then converted into a liquid hydrocarbon fuel.

The gas-to-liquid process uses CO2 and H2 as feedstock. Once the fuel was created, to prove that it would work in a small internal combustion engine, the researchers put the fuel into a scale model remote controlled P-51 Mustang. The complex process for creating the fuel from seawater uses a proprietary electrolytic cation exchange module that removes dissolved and bound CO2 from seawater at 92% efficiency.

That process involves re-equilibrating carbonate and bicarbonate to CO2 and producing H2 at the same time. Those two gases are then converted to a liquid hydrocarbon using a metal catalyst in a reactor system created by the researchers.

Researchers on the project say that this is the first time this sort of tech has been demonstrated with the potential to move to full-scale commercial implementation. The first step of the process created by the team uses a patented iron-based catalyst able to convert CO2 at up to 60% and decrease methane production in favor of creating longer-chain unsaturated hydrocarbons that can serve as building blocks for designer fuels and industrial chemicals. Using this tech, the scientists believe they could produce jet fuel that costs in the area of $3-$6 per gallon. Given enough funding the process could be ready for commercial implementation in 7-10 years.