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Green Energy Breakthroughs of 2022

Author: Samuel Beckingham
Updated: Jan 04, 2023
4 minutes read

Low-Carbon Aviation Fuel

Researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute have come up with a breakthrough formula that will lead to net zero plane fuel. According to their data, which is based on computational modelling, the fuel will lead to less carbon dioxide (CO₂) in the air. Considering aviation accounts for around 2.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and rising, this comes at a great time.

Other scientists have tried to come up with more sustainable solutions for conventional fuel, but they usually have a limited range. This fuel consists of magnesium, which is easily sourced from the oceans, and will burn as magnesium hydride with hydrocarbon fuel. This would produce CO₂, water vapour and magnesium oxide nanoparticles. Due to its composition, less fuel is required but a greater range is produced, by up to 8% when compared to conventional fuels. Liquid nitrogen and ammonia are two to three times worse than this magnesium hydride fuel.

Electricity via Plants

Green energy has been harnessed from living plants via photosynthesis. Scientists inserted an anode and cathode into an ice plant succulent to harness the electrons naturally produced. Just one leaf generated less power than a single traditional alkaline battery, but continued to provide power for over a day when exposed to light. The test was specifically designed to form hydrogen gas at the cathode to be used in other applications.

These living solar cells worked on previous research and suggests that multiple leaves connected in this way could be used to generate a usable amount of electricity. This has opened the pathway for a form of future sustainable green energy technology. Previous tests have involved bacteria, but these have needed a constant form of nutrients to work. Photosynthesis, instead, only works with light and water to generate a current, which can be harnessed in a photocurrent like solar cells.

Making Coal Green

Power plants that run on coal are responsible for around 30% of global CO₂ emissions. Finding a way to capture the harmful gases these plants produce as the world makes its transition to renewable energy production seemed like the most logical step for some scientists. While some materials are currently used to filter and separate these gases, they are either too costly or don’t work in all conditions. The National Institute of Standards and Technology has recognised the use of a simple material that’s much cheaper.

Aluminium formate, or ALF, is better at separating CO₂ from other gases in smokestacks. While other scrubbers can be damaged by the hot, humid and corrosive gases in the smokestacks, ALF works on all accounts except in really humid conditions. However, because it is incredibly cheap, adding a drying step to smokestacks won’t be too much of an issue. Compared to other materials, ALF is much cheaper to do this and is more readily available to be produced. Some other materials are also cheap but only work in dry conditions, so ALF is potentially already a game changer in the carbon capturing world. Made from aluminium hydroxide and formic acid, ALF could be the future of making coal a clean fuel.