News / Science & Technology

US Navy Lab Turns Seawater Into Fuel

US Navy Lab Turns Seawater Into Fueli
X
George Putic
May 21, 2014 4:39 PM
For centuries, alchemists have tried to turn lead into gold. That transmutation has long been proven impossible, but another similar dream - turning water into fuel - seems to be achievable. Scientists at a U.S. Naval Laboratory proved it by flying a model airplane burning re-engineered seawater. VOA’s George Putic has the story.

US Navy Lab Turns Seawater Into Fuel

George Putic
For centuries, alchemists have tried to turn lead into gold. That transmutation has long been proven impossible, but another similar dream - turning water into fuel - seems to be achievable. Scientists at a U.S. Naval Laboratory proved it by flying a model airplane burning re-engineered seawater.

Natural gas and liquid fuels, burned in all kinds of internal combustion engines, are chemical compounds of hydrogen and carbon, coming mostly from underground reserves.

Oceans also are huge reservoirs of hydrogen, though, and - increasingly - carbon dioxide, or CO2. Dissolved in seawater from the air, it makes the water more acidic.

Extracting those chemicals from the ocean and converting them into a form of liquid fuel was made possible by some recent technological advances, according to U.S. Navy researcher, Dr. Heather Willauer.

“We've been actually able to show that we can recombine CO2 and hydrogen in the laboratory on a lab-scale, laboratory scale, into a liquid-type fuel,” she said.

The process requires a lot of electrical energy, which - to be economical - has to come from a cheap source, such as a nuclear power plant.

Economical electric energy

Obviously, the most efficient place to do it would be aboard a nuclear powered aircraft carrier. Willauer said these ships may someday manufacture their own jet fuel.

“Well, it is a game-changer potentially for the Navy or commercial entities because you can make fuel potentially where and when you need it,” she said.

The new fuel was tested successfully on a model airplane with a two-stroke engine. For now, making it requires twice as much power as the fuel can produce, but researchers hope to lower that ratio.

Willauer said the new process will not increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which contributes to global warming.

“Once we've pulled it out of seawater, the ocean is ready to pull it back in from the atmosphere, 'cause it's in constant equilibrium. So what we hope is it's a carbon-neutral footprint,” she said.

Scientists hope a small scale industrial plant may start converting seawater into fuel within the next 15 years.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Remy C from: Weston, CT
May 27, 2014 7:25 AM
"cheap source of electricity, a nuclear power plant"? You gotta be kidding me? Tell that to Japan, to the Ukraine, which just about had their entire economies destroyed by nuclear accidents!

In Response

by: Anonymous
June 02, 2014 11:16 AM
And yet, the US Navy operates over a hundred nuclear reactors every day, has for years, and hasn't had an accident...


by: John Bates from: Spring Valley, Ca 91977
May 23, 2014 9:28 PM
Amazing how she is taking credit for the original inventor, (over six years ago), John Kansas who was looking for a cure for cancer.

In Response

by: Greg from: Atlanta
May 26, 2014 8:58 AM
I don't see where she took any credit at all. The closest she came to taking credit was, "We've been actually able to show..." In this article no invention credit was given or taken.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid