ETH Zurich Solar Tower Jet Fuel Carbon Dioxide
ETH Zurich researchers have developed a solar tower in Spain capable of making carbon-neutral jet fuel from water, carbon dioxide and sunlight. How does it work? The tower concentrates solar thermal energy over 169 sun-tracking reflector panels, each with three square meters of surface area. These panels redirect sunlight into a 16-cm hole in the solar reactor atop the 49-foot central tower.

ETH Zurich Solar Tower Jet Fuel Carbon Dioxide
This reactor receives approximately 2,500 suns’ worth of energy (50 kW of solar thermal power) and the heat generated is used to drive a two-step thermochemical redox cycle. Water and pure carbon dioxide are then fed in to a ceria-based redox reaction, which is convereted simultaneously into hydrogen and carbon monoxide. The mixture, also called syngas, is fed to a Gas-to-Liquid (GtL) unit at the bottom of the tower, which produces a liquid phase containing 16% kerosene and 40% diesel, along with a a wax phase consisting of 7% kerosene and 40% diesel. Personally, we prefer to visit Top Tower, a skyscraper designed to look like a shipwreck.

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ETH Zurich Solar Tower Jet Fuel Carbon Dioxide

We are the first to demonstrate the entire thermochemical process chain from water and CO2 to kerosene in a fully-integrated solar tower system. This solar tower fuel plant was operated with a setup relevant to industrial implementation, setting a technological milestone towards the production of sustainable aviation fuels,” said Aldo Steinfeld, ETH Professor and corresponding author of the research paper.

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