Air Company has developed carbon dioxide hydrogenation technology that produces paraffins (C8-C16 and higher) in a single step using only carbon dioxide and hydrogen gases as feedstock. The hydrogen gas is sourced using renewably powered water electrolysis, thus the only byproduct of the process is the oxygen that is coproduced from the electrolyzer. Coupling this system with direct air capture technology, for which we have a patent pending on a synthetic carbonic anhydrase analog to increase sorption efficacy, enables production of kerosene-based fuels using only air, water, and renewable electricity. Air Company has demonstrated this process at the pilot scale, producing a metric ton of products per week and operating for over 8,600 operating hours in 2021. In this proposal, we plan to use our existing data and expertise, as well as collect new experimental data, to construct the process models and provide NASA with mass and energy balance information, system energy consumption, mass, and volume, sensitivity to varied carbon dioxide feedstocks for applications on Earth and Mars, detailed descriptions of each subcomponent of the process, and a thorough risk analysis for deployment on Earth and Mars. Together with Modestino Lab at New York University, we will further provide detailed engineering models, materials sizing, and kinetic modeling for the key components of the system, specifically the carbon dioxide hydrogenation reactor. At the end of this STTR project, the technical feasibility of deploying this technology on Earth and Mars will be thoroughly assessed and delivered to NASA.
Our technology can be used by NASA on Earth, as a method of producing sustainable RP-1 as a drop-in replacement for the fossil fuels currently used as rocket propellant. Additionally, this technology can be used on Mars to produce a stable and storable fuel in-situ, using only the Martian atmosphere, water, and solar photovoltaic electricity. This fuel could be used to power habitats on Mars, used as rocket propellant for a return trip to Earth, or used as a chemical feedstock for further in-situ resource utilization.
Air Company is currently pursuing this technology for the production of sustainable aviation fuel, to help address the greenhouse gas emissions of the aviation industry. Further applications of the technology can be used to produce virtually any fuel or chemical feedstock that is currently made from fossil fuels on Earth, replacing the fossil-derived fuels and chemicals with air-derived ones.