In the continued exploration of technologies that are aiding in our fight for a cleaner planet with more sustainable options, I recently came across an article about the US Air Force and a company by the name of Twelve. What intrigued me was the process that has been developed to turn carbon dioxide into jet fuel. Seems like a fever dream, but it is a reality that could change the fossil fuel industry dependence in a big way.
According to the article, Twelve’s process takes CO2 from the air around us and can convert it to other chemicals, materials, or fuels. Carbon is the building block of our world. Humans are made of carbon, we burn it as wood, and it makes up nearly every material on the planet. So, it is no surprise how big of an impact that this technology can have on our world. Currently, we use petroleum to produce material like plastic, but perhaps the future is carbon conversion. The issue at hand right now is feasibility for mass use.
The Air Force seems confident that the process for aircraft fuel could be sustainable. The process uses water and energy to complete the conversion, but it appears that renewable sources of energy are sufficient, which ensures that we are not just creating a cyclical system of petroleum recycling but rather depleting the carbon in the atmosphere. Essentially, the Air Force thinks the carbon conversion jet fuel could be feasibly available all over the world because of the technology and input materials required. This is valuable because it would remove the potential for an immediate vacuum of power in the energy market should this become a full substitute to petroleum-based fuels. It is no secret that fossil fuel companies run the world’s economies, so limiting their influence and power by introducing a technology like this could aid many poorer countries as well.
Further to the benefits of this fuel source is that it would be a “drop-in replacement” for the current fuel type, which means that the current models of planes would not need to be modified. This is an important feature because oftentimes the biggest hurdle for a new technology is the high principal cost to infrastructure alterations. For example, the hydrogen fuel cell technology, which was an amazing concept for clean, renewable power generation in cars. However, one of the challenges for the technology implementation, apart from the high cost of the technology, was the fact that new cars would need to be manufactured with hydrogen fuel cell features. In other words, a consumer would need to buy a whole new car to use the technology, which is a tough sell for potential consumers if their budget is limited. Substitution technologies work best when the substitute does not severely change the habits of consumers.
Twelve’s technology is still in the demonstration phase of the pilot project, but the next step is about mass production, which is set to be completed in December 2021. If successful, it looks promising that the US Air Force will adopt the technology, which means us plebeians could see the technology be involved in our lives sooner than later.