Novel iron catalysts for the production of jet fuels

Jet fuels are a type of fuel consisting of a mixture of different hydrocarbons with carbon chain lengths that varies from C8-C16. In recent years, the demand for synthetic jet fuels has increased due to the reduction of pollutants and carbon emissions associated with their use compared with conventional jet fuels.

Despite the benefits associated with the use of synthetic jet fuels, their formation through Fischer-Tropsch synthesis (FTS) typically involves additional emission processes and energy costs.

Researchers at Oxford have tackled this issue and developed a novel and sustainably formed catalytic system for the hydrogenation of CO2 and/or CO to form the desired jet fuels.

Synthetic jet fuels

Jet fuels are a type of aviation fuel consisting of a mixture of different hydrocarbons with carbon chain lengths that varies from C8-C16 and C5-C15. While conventional jet fuels are obtained through a series of distillation and refining processes from fossil fuels, synthetic jet fuels are made from syngas (CO/CO2 + H2) in a catalysed process called Fischer-Tropsch synthesis (FTS).

The use of these synthetic jet fuels has become highly popular in recent years with their properties being evaluated and accepted as equivalent to conventional fuels. In addition, a significant reduction in pollutants such as SOX, NOX, particulate matter and carbon emissions have been observed through their use, meaning the air quality around airports could be increased.

Despite the benefits associated with the use of synthetic jet fuels, their formation through iron-based FTS typically involves higher energy input and more emissions in the catalyst preparation. Also, the catalyst performance is not ideal in terms of catalyst activity and selectivity.

Novel FTS catalyst

Researchers at Oxford University have developed a novel and more sustainable method for the preparation of iron-based FTS catalysts with low or even no emissions but high performance. The new catalytic system allows for the formation of jet fuels from the hydrogenation of carbon dioxide (CO2) and/or carbon monoxide (CO).

The technology opens a new area of research in which atmospheric CO2 could be trapped and used for the generation of these highly valuable fuels, thus contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gases associated with the aviation industry.

Commercialisation

Oxford University Innovation Ltd. has filed a priority patent application on the technology and welcomes discussion with companies interested in licensing it for commercial development.

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