First chemical reactor produces liquid fuels from CO2, using solar power

First chemical reactor to make liquid fuels using CO2, solar energy

6:56 AM, 18th November 2016
The founders of INERATEC, a spinoff of KIT, develop compact, microstructured chemical reactors for conversion of gases into high-quality liquid fuels.
The founders of INERATEC, a spinoff of KIT, develop compact, microstructured chemical reactors for conversion of gases into high-quality liquid fuels.

KARLSRUHE, GERMANY: The demand of liquid fuels from regenerative energy sources is a major element of the energy turnaround. Production of synthetic fuels from solar energy and carbon dioxide (CO2) extracted from air is the aim of the SOLETAIR project started now by INERATEC GmbH, an addition of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), in cooperation with Finnish partners.

Jointly, the partners plan to take into operation the first chemical pilot plant worldwide. It is so dense that it fits into a shipping container and produces gasoline, diesel, and kerosene from regenerative hydrogen and carbon dioxide.

The plant consists of three components. The direct air capture unit developed by the Technical Research Center of Finland (VTT) extracts carbon dioxide from the air. An electrolysis unit developed by Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) produces the required hydrogen by means of solar power.

A microstructured, chemical reactor is the main component of the plant and converts the hydrogen produced from solar power together with carbon dioxide into liquid fuels. This reactor was developed by KIT. The compact plant was developed to maturity and is now being commercialised by INERATEC.

“Authorizing of this pilot plant is an example of a successful transfer of KIT’s research innovations to the industry. INERATEC GmbH is a spin-off of KIT and develops, constructs, and sells compact chemical plants for various gas-to-liquid and power-to-liquid applications. The spinoff is supported under the EXIST research transfer program of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy,” said professor Thomas Hirth, VP for innovation and international affairs of KIT.

“In the future, KIT, INERATEC, and VTT plan to extend their cooperation. The work will focus on the investigation and development of innovative energy systems based on renewable energy sources, novel storage technologies, and the conversion of renewable energies into chemical energy carriers,” emphasised Dr Tim Boltken, founder of INERATEC.

“The new power-to-liquid plant will be taken into operation at the BIORUUKKI Piloting Center of VTT this year. In 2017, an operation is planned to be continued on the campus of LUT. The SOLETAIR project will be completed in mid-2018,” added Dr Pekka Simell, VTT scientist and SOLETAIR project head.

This project is funded with €1 million by the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation (Tekes).

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