Although no one is saying that aircraft carriers will soon be able to fuel their jet fighters using water from the ocean, such a scenario has recently come a step closer to reality. Scientists from the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) have successfully flown a radio-controlled airplane that was running purely on fuel derived from sea water.

The fuel was obtained using NRL's gas-to-liquid technology. This involved running sea water through the group's E-CEM (electrolytic cation exchange module) Carbon Capture Skid, which removed carbon dioxide from the water at 92 percent efficiency while simultaneously producing hydrogen as part of the process. Using a metal catalyst in a separate reactor system, the CO2 and hydrogen gases were then converted into a liquid hydrocarbon fuel.

NRL's E-CEM Carbon Capture Skid

In a proof-of-concept test performed last September at Blossom Point, Maryland, that fuel was used to power an RC model P-51 Mustang's unmodified two-stroke engine. It marked the first time that the fuel had been used in a conventional combustion engine, and was made public this Monday.

The researchers are now working on upscaling the system to a commercial scale. NRL notes that apart from its use in fuel production, the CO2 could also have applications in the fields of horticulture or aquaculture.

More details on how the gas-to-liquid process works can be found in the video below.

Source: NRL