Production of sustainable aviation fuels could become economical thanks to new catalysts.
Green hydrogen is seen as a beacon of hope for the decarbonization of industry, but also for the environmentally friendly supply of heat. The light gas is also to be used increasingly in the mobility sector. While hydrogen-powered cars are a niche market – there are only around 1,200 registered in Germany – they are proof of the energy carrier’s suitability for practical use, this has yet to be demonstrated in aviation.
The South African chemical and energy company Sasol, together with the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB), wants to change this. To this end, the CARE-O-SENE research project was founded, in which catalysts for the production of so-called green aviation fuels (sustainable aviation fuels, or SAF for short) are to be developed and optimized.
SAF are produced from green hydrogen and sustainable carbon dioxide sources using the Fischer-Tropsch process, in which Sasol is the world leader. Green hydrogen, in turn, is produced by water electrolysis, in which water is split into its starting materials hydrogen and oxygen by green electricity. Depending on the electrolysis process, various technology, precious and rare earth metals are used.
The ceremony in Johannesburg to mark the launch of the project was attended by the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. According to the press release, it is planned that the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) will provide financial support for the project. The project partners include the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems (IKTS), the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), the University of Cape Town (UCT) and INERATEC GmbH.
Meanwhile, multinational aircraft manufacturer Airbus is taking a different approach to decarbonization. The latter announced ground and air tests with a direct combustion engine powered by hydrogen in February (we reported).