UR and possible game-changer for Navy: Using salt water for fuel

Local News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The US Navy leads the way in efficient, nuclear-powered vessels. All active aircraft carriers, and a number of other ships and subs are powered using that method. Now, researchers at the University of Rochester are working on a way to create another kind of fuel out at sea to make some deployments even more effective.

This project is for the big guys, the aircraft carriers. In a nutshell — taking nuclear power and salt water to make fuel onboard for fighter jets. If approved, this could eliminate the need to rely on vulnerable fuel lines while forward-deployed.

“This process doesn’t create energy, it’s a means of converting energy,” says Marc Porosoff, Assistant Professor of Chemical engineering with UR, who has been leading a team working with the Naval Research lab in Washington, D.C., University of Pittsburgh and Oxeon Energy.

“So, this would be oriented towards the nuclear powered aircraft carriers. So it takes the energy in the nuclear reactor, combines it with sea water, which is a very abundant resource, and makes a very useful fuel that can be used to power the fighter jets,” he says.

Here’s how it works: Porosoff says their catalyst speeds up the rate of reaction. After extracting hydrogen and carbon dioxide from sea water, the two molecules are flowed over the catalyst, which makes them react.

“Thereby, you can stay out at sea and won’t have to move around to refuel, giving the US Navy a strategic advantage,” he says.

This idea has been around for awhile, yet Porosoff says we’re still years away from this being implemented, if the Navy ends up liking it. “I hope so, let’s see,” he says.

This sea water to fuel research is only one aspect of Porosoff’s body of work. He and his team also use a similar process to make plastics, chemicals and other fuels.

For a more detailed reading on this program, click here and here.

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