In an uncharacteristic and equally bold move by U.S. Defense Military Researchers are hoping to take advantage of the vast potential of safe, zero-emissions, low-cost energy that comes from 4th generation nuclear reactors. Naval Research Laboratories in Florida has successfully developed a technology that synthesizes jet fuel from only sea water and electricity.
With all of their ships and planes, the navy has become hopelessly dependant by neccessity on both diesel and jet fuel. Unfortunately, many of the regions that contain large sources of petroleum, have political interests in direct opposition to the United States. This dependancy is also increasingly expensive and more often than not detrimental to the environment.
A team headed by Heather Willauer at Naval Research Laboratories has over a period of 12 years formulated a technique that can use carbon dioxide/hydrogen from seawater and electricity from small modular nuclear reactors found aboard some navy ships to synthesize both F-76 diesel and JP-5 jet fuel.
Ocean water is subjected to a reverse osmosis procedure that produces fresh water, the process takes place in situ at sea where there is abundant resource of water and can’t simply start with fresh water.The second process separates out all the fresh water’s atoms then, the hydrogen meets with the carbon dioxide from the first step to all go through a catalytic conversion procedure that results in water, heat and fuel. The water and heat can be used to help power the process itself or used elsewhere on the ship.The process will require some kind of seperate power source with Ocean thermal energy conversion or nuclear power being the main contenders to keep the machinery running.
By temporarily lowering the pH of the seawater to a value of 4.5 and removing 92% of the carbon dioxide, the CO2 along with elemental hydrogen from electrolysis runs through a specialized catalyst that synthesizes longer hydrocarbon chains. This produces a fuel that is far superior to the product currently being used by the Navy. Though it takes about 23,000 gallons of water to produce 1 gallon of JP-5 jet fuel, using available technology we can potentially manufacture 41,000 gallons per day from a single ship carrying a 100mW reactor. The entire navy fleet could be fueled with roughly 5 vessels carrying these systems, and they do not necessarily need to be devoted fuel manufacturing vessels .A cost analysis for the navy reactors puts the price of delivered fuel using this new fuel synthesis system at ~$2.90 which is much friendlier than the current ~$7.00+. With higher-temperature 4th generation reactor designs, this price could substantially be reduced, due to the fact that water dissociates at the high operating temperatures of these reactors thus making electrolysis redundant.
Almost all of the research and experimentation behind the chemical concept has been successfuly completed, including the catalyzers, membranes, fuel synthesis and specifications. Now engineering issues of scaling up,fortifying and mobilizing the technology are the paramount concerns in making synthesized fuel available to our navy and military.
Its Military Applications aside, here we have the potential to provide consumers with carbon-neutral transportation fuels that are not subject to supply and demand? Electricity from nuclear power is currently more expensive for civilians than it is for military, so an analysis puts the price for transportation fuels from civilian power at $5.90 per gallon, which is substantially more than a gallon of fossil-derived gasoline. The price is worth it when you consider the potential to supersede the existant petro-reliant global economy and the world-wide adoption of a fuel from a carbon-neutral source.
Nuclear energy has the distinguished potential of being able to profitably synthesize transportation fuels from gasoline to methanol which can be used in place of diesel. By synthesizing fuel, we will no longer be a slave to digging holes in the ground to fuel our transportation infrastructure. The oil and fossil fuel companies will lose their monopoly on record profits from fluctuations in a market based on a finite resource, energy will simply be too abundant.