Normally, airplanes fly with kerosene, which is obtained directly from crude oil. The problem with this: Both the extraction and the emission are enormously harmful to the climate. A new study from 2021, for example, found that global air travel accounts for about four percent of global warming.
A real challenge for aviation: so far there have been hardly any alternatives to aircraft fuel - but one thing is clear: if passengers and freight are to continue to be transported by plane, the consequences for climate change must be reduced.
Scientists in Europe are therefore also researching new methods and options to make flying more climate-friendly. Scientists have made a real breakthrough as part of the European Union's "SUNlight-to-Liquid" project: They were able to produce kerosene completely artificially - exclusively from carbon dioxide, solar energy and water.
According to the study in the journal Joule, the scientists used a tower with 169 solar cells, a solar reactor and a gas-to-liquid conversion unit for the production. In this way, solar fuels can be produced cheaply with high efficiency.
A particularly important point in production: Instead of fossil fuels such as crude oil, carbon dioxide, i.e. CO2, is used for production. So while normal kerosene emits CO2 during extraction and production, the new "solar kerosene" even reduces the CO2 level on earth. The researchers involved therefore even speak of "a technological milestone in the production of sustainable aviation fuels".
Some of it is emitted again when flying. Aldo Steinfeld, one of the researchers involved and a professor at ETH Zurich, nevertheless says that this makes the fuel carbon-neutral: "The amount of CO2 that is emitted when kerosene is burned in an aircraft engine corresponds to the amount that is emitted in the solar system will be produced." Ergo: The climate-damaging consequences would be offset again.
Sources: Joule, Forbes, Wind Magazine, "Deutsche Welle"