• Oct 24th 2012 at 10:54AM
  • 96
You know all about fuel-efficient alternatives to combat high gas prices. There are plug-in hybrids and electric cars, clean diesel and biodiesel. There's compressed natural gas and biomass and algae-based fuels. Now comes another development that makes those seem downright past their prime.

Seemingly out of science fiction, a small British company is making fuel out of thin air.

That's right, Air Fuel Synthesis has honed a process that uses air and electricity to manufacture a synthetic fuel, one that so far has powered a Lotus Exige in test drives.

The technology is in its infancy, but within the next two years, the Darlington, U.K.-based company plans to build a plant that can produce a metric ton worth of gas every day. Over the next 15 years, the company wants to build a full-scale refinery, and initially, provide fuel for high-performance vehicles.

How does it work? Wired Magazine provides a glimpse at the process:

"A dehumidifier condenses the water out of the air, then passes the liquid into an "electrolyser" where another electric current splits the water into hydrogen and oxygen. The carbon dioxide and hydrogen react to make a hydrocarbon mixture, or methanol, the composition of which can be tweaked depending on the type of fuel required."

There's more to it than that, but that's a significant part of the process, which is described more thoroughly here.

The emerging company has already captured attention in England. British deputy prime minister Nick Clegg visited the company's nearby demonstration plant last week, and told ITV News, "I feel I've glimpsed the future."



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  • 96 Comments
      madavis
      • 2 Years Ago
      Already see conspiracy nuts posting about big oil or big government or auto makers killing this latest and greatest new energy source and the technology is not even close to being developed yet. Here's a question - how much energy does it take to produce this miracle fuel? Here's another - what are we supposed to breathe when our atmosphere has been converted into methanol? Or do you think the atmosphere is unlimited? Is this how we solve air pollution problems? All the concerns about gas greenhouse gas, global warming will be solved by turning the atmosphere into methanol? Too many questions before I buy into this.
      ronnycorona
      • 2 Years Ago
      Why not just start with water instead of "condensing" it out of the air?...ANSWER ME!
        orthodoxy76
        • 2 Years Ago
        @ronnycorona
        The water that is condensed is clean ie less mineral content and it is generated on board so no need to "fill up".
        crazy ray
        • 2 Years Ago
        @ronnycorona
        No carbon dioxide in plain water, Einstein.
          dusty754
          • 2 Years Ago
          @crazy ray
          There is no carbon dioxide in water provided through condensation or any water either Einstein!! That is why the water molecule is H2O. Two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen. No carbon dioxide. Change the molecule and it is no longer water.
      chzyrider
      • 2 Years Ago
      This can be a stable source of a combustable fuel for future vehicles designed to operate on it. Once the intitial cost of research and implementation of the technology into the mainstream is recovered, the cost of continued production should then be the base for wholesale pricing. However, corporate greed and government regulations will probably make it similar in retail price to the current standards. A problem I see with alternative fuels replacing our present gasoline consumption is offsetting and eventually replacing the current gasoline taxes utilized to maintain and repair public roads. Electric, hybrid, and alternative fueled vehicles (methane or propane) would need to be taxed accordingly for their fuel consumption and/or road usage as well, or there may be no suitable roads to drive on anymore.
      Roger
      • 2 Years Ago
      Utterly stupid. There is absolutely no reason to condense the water out of the air. There is water EVERYWHERE! Using a condenser means that you're wasting energy. And the rest of it is merely electrolysis. There's nothing new here. it's all a scam!
      • 2 Years Ago
      I also glimpsed the future. Impure water entered a vacuum chamber where it boiled. The gaseous water filled the chamber - one side chilled - and the water vapor turned into liquid (very clean) water. The water added to the water that was circulating, being pulled down a pipe which caused the vacuum in the chamber. As water was added to the circulating water, some was drawn off - the product if you will. No, it did not reach thermal equilibrium because energy was always being added - the one side was cooled so that the incoming water on warm side would have the differential energy to boil. The patent office made the physicist prove that it was not perpetual motion before granting the patent. Then, the physicist got Alzheimers Disease. I wonder now if the technique is in use in Brazil as they produce ethanol from sugar cane, or anywhere else for that matter. My very best wishes to the AFS folks. We were told by the patent office that this was the most significant patent since the transistor, but today nothing has become of it.
      Mouse
      • 2 Years Ago
      I'm actually way ahead of you. I've been working on an air-pressurized car for a while now. =)
        robertt253
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Mouse
        When I was about 9 or 10, me and a buddy started designing one too!
      avcaman
      • 2 Years Ago
      I feel like baby bird in a nest waiting for mom and pop to come back and give me more bs to eat
      Susan
      • 2 Years Ago
      I'd love to see this used in practical applications, but I think that some oil-producing country will buy the patent for the technology and it will be locked away in Warehouse 13.
      • 2 Years Ago
      this is an interesting theory but does it have cons that will prove difficult later such as a lack of humidified(lack of a better word) earth spear?
      coolsteam
      • 2 Years Ago
      The process is highly endothermic and the eventual exothermic reaction (burning the fuel) produces far less energy than consumed. In a nutshell, this is an inefficient way to make fuel for inefficient cars. As others have stated, it is far more efficient to burn the H and O in a hydrogen fuel cell car than to process it into gasoline. Also, nothing was mentioned about the NaOH required to catalyze the reaction in the first place...and a "plant" that produces a single metric ton a day would not power the vehicles in a single city.
      ramrose3
      • 2 Years Ago
      How about 2 little letters b s
      kevin
      • 2 Years Ago
      It will only go mainstream when the rich figure out how to use it to make them richer....until then, sorry mother earth.
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