A company called Carbon Engineering wants to create a carbon-neutral fuel by capturing carbon dioxide from the air and turn it into synthetic gasoline. The company’s process, called Air to Fuels (A2F), is deceptively simple on the surface: It extracts carbon dioxide from the air, puts it through chemical processes, and creates liquid hydrocarbon fuel. (Hydrocarbons are organic compounds consisting only of hydrogen and carbon. Oil and gasoline are examples of liquid hydrocarbon fuels. The A2F process creates a synthetic version of a liquid hydrocarbon fuel.)
But perhaps unsurprisingly, in reality, it’s a bit more complex. Carbon Engineering uses something called direct air capture (DAC) technology to extract the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and purify it. Then, it relies on a renewable energy source, such as solar power, to make hydrogen by electrolyzing water (H2O). The hydrogen splits off from the water and is free to combine with carbon dioxide. Next, the process combines the carbon dioxide with hydrogen during a proprietary chemical process, and carbon-neutral liquid fuels like gasoline, jet fuel, or diesel are born.