Air travel in the future: flying on air?

In the search for ways to decarbonize aviation and to make flying more sustainable, several new technologies have been launched. In the far future, we may even be able to fly on a fuel that is extracted from the atmosphere itself. Flying on air? It may work, but the challenges are many and the timeline is uncertain.

Flying, powered by air, is one of the options for sustainable flying that is discussed in an analysis in the New York Times. “Perhaps the most intriguing potential source”, the analysis states, “is the air we breathe, which, of course, is full of carbon dioxide.”

According to the report, researchers have already developed the technology for this process, known as ‘power to liquid’. It uses enormous fans to scrub carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, then extract the carbon from the CO2 molecule before combining it with hydrogen produced from water electroylsis that’s powered by renewable energy. The result is a hydrocarbon that can be used to power an airplane.

According to experts, the new technology is promising. And there are rapid developments, but, as often with new technologies, the key challenge is the high cost.

“That cost is mainly because of the enormous amount of clean energy required to produce the fuel in significant volumes. But the cost of renewable electricity is falling so quickly that by 2035, ‘power-to-electric’ fuel could be cheaper to produce than most SAF made from biomass”, the report states.