How the U.S. Navy will turn seawater into fuel
Navy destroyers burn through a thousand gallons of fuel an hour. No wonder researchers have been feverishly working towards alternatives.
the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has spent years researching the possibility of extracting liquid hydrocarbon from seawater to power its ships.
In addition to H20 and salt, ocean water is rich in carbon dioxide. (Make that very rich: Navy scientists say the CO2 concentration is 140 times that of air.) So the Navy built a large system including a catalytic converter that extracts hydrogen and carbon dioxide from the water with 92 percent efficiency and then — via a reaction with a metal catalyst — transforms those gases into a liquid hydrocarbon fuel that the ship’s existing engines can burn. In a proof-of-concept test held last week, naval researchers made enough of the stuff to fly the model plane with its small off-the-shelf engine.
With the test flight a success, the Navy now must prove it can produce sea-based fuels in mass quantity. Researchers will start by setting up test production facilities on land. Eventually, the goal is to turn the catalytic converter into something no larger than a car that can live aboard a ship and supply its fuel by processing seawater.