The approach is inexpensive, uncomplicated and uses commonplace materials. It’s cheaper than processes used to turn hydrogen and water into fuel.

There are numerous challenges to bringing this to aircraft. The lab method only produced a few grams of fuel — you’d clearly need much more to support even a single flight, let alone an entire fleet. You’d need much more widespread use of carbon capture. And if you want effectively zero emissions, the capture and conversion systems would have to run on clean energy.

The researches are talking with industrial partners, though, and don’t see any major scientific hurdles. It might also be one of the most viable options for fleets. Many of them would have to replace their aircraft to go electric or switch fuel types. This conversion process would let airlines keep their existing aircraft and go carbon neutral until they’re truly ready for eco-friendly propulsion.

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