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How To Make Fuel Out Of Thin Air

A British company is doing just that

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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