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Israeli company reports successful stage 1 testing of solar CO2-to-fuels technology

Israel-based NewCO2Fuels (NCF), a subsidiary of GreenEarth Energy Limited in Australia, reported completion of stage 1 testing of its proof-of-concept system for the conversion of CO2 into fuels using solar energy. NewCO2Fuels was founded in 2011 to commercialize a technology developed by Prof. Jacob Karni’s laboratory at the Weizmann Institute of Science.

In passing the Stage 1 testing, NCF demonstrated technology that successfully dissociates CO2 into CO and oxygen in a heating environment, simulating the industrial waste heat sources that will be used as one of two energy sources in the commercial product. Importantly, the company said, the dissociation rate of the system was increased by a factor of 200 and the cost was reduced by a factor of 34, relative to the original dissociation apparatus demonstrated in 2010 at the laboratories of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.

NCF solutions are based on two technologies developed by Professor Karni and his team. The first technology concentrates solar energy to create and transfer heat up to 1200 °C, while coping with cycles related to solar conditions. The second technology involves a new method of using very high temperatures for the dissociation of carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide and oxygen. Simultaneously, the same device can dissociate water (H2O) to hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2).

The mixture of CO and H2—i.e., syngas—can then be used as gaseous fuel (e.g., in power plants), or converted to liquid fuel (e.g., methanol or other synthetic fuels). The oxygen produced in the process can be used in the combustion of the clean fuel, for example, using advanced-combustion methods, such as oxy-fuel combustion in power plants.

Concept of the NCF process. Click to enlarge.

NCF says that its unique value proposition is the 40% conversion efficiency of the process—the ratio between the solar energy reaching the reflector and the chemical energy stored in the syngas. This efficiency enables competitive end-product fuel prices while recycling CO2 emissions.

Professor Jacob Karni - Weizmann Institute from on Vimeo.

During January and February of 2014, the stage 2 testing, which encompasses two additional targets, is on track to further establish the final proof of concept:

  • Increasing the new dissociation rate by a factor of 4, an 800-fold increase in the dissociating rate from the original; and

  • Driving the system using a solar-based heat source (100% renewable).

Taking a brand new technology from the academic laboratories and an embryonic system concept and bringing them into an operational, multidisciplinary instrument is a complicated and delicate process. It involves innovation, competence and experience in a large number of disciplines such as materials, mechanics, heat and mass transfer, physics, chemistry and more. It also requires highly coordinated work and managerial proficiency to make them operate in concert with complicated tradeoffs involving technical, cost and time aspects.

Taking all these into consideration, one can value the magnitude and significance of the accomplishment of Stage 1 of the proof of concept. It proves not only the viability of the technology but also the capabilities and competencies of the company’s staff.

—David Banitt, CEO of NewCO2Fuels






Half-awesome at the moment, hopefully fully awesome before long! ;-)


They can do the same thing with an SOFC and power tower. CO2 and water go in then CO/H2 syngas comes out to make fuels. You have O2 to use in a gas turbine to create power and CO2.


Very nice, I see still a problem working at 1200 C which requires bright sun with highly concentrated sunlight, not always available where the source of CO2 are , but it sounds like holding significant promise in the concept


Sounds way more promising than Algea bio fuels. In the end it will be Israel that will save the world from Arab oil.

Roger Pham

At 40% efficiency from solar to fuel, this is 3x more efficient than solar PV (at 20% efficiency) to H2 (~15% efficiency). If no high-cost material required, this will bring the price of synthetic solar fuel below the cost of fossil fuels and will be a real game changer. No new infrastructure will be required when dropped-in hydrocarbon fuel can be used. NG and oil pipelines can be built to transport the fuels out from the desert while sea water pipelines will transport sea water to provide both CO2 and water for the synthesizer.

While HEV's will utilize this synthetic fuel efficiently, in countries without desert area, solar PV and wind to H2 to be used in FCV's and home FC-CHP's for winter will remain competitve in order to avoid having to import fuels.

Future multi-junction solar PV will be able to match the efficiency of the above process, while FC has twice the efficiency of ICE, so solar PV to H2 in FCV may still remain to be competitive far into the future.




The problem with importing oil is not that it is imported as such, but that only a few countries have it to export, so hindering a truly competitive market, and that it is a limited resource which is ever more difficult to obtain so that the real price has risen several fold over the last few decades.

None of this applies to producing hydrogen from sunlight and sea water, and so it should be a universal solution if practical.


The chemistry has never been a problem.  The problem has always been the cost of producing at commercial scale.

This really has possibilities.  Seasonal-scale storage is feasible if the energy supply is a carbon-based gas that can be stuffed into old gas wells until needed.  CO2 can be stashed away the same way.  But the high-temperature concentrated solar requires cloudless skies, meaning deserts.  People tend to avoid deserts, so energy demand and industry tends to be where they aren't.  Problem.


Interesting what you can do with 1200 C heat. However, if you can heat a gas to 1200 C, it would be more efficient to heat a working fluid, probably hydrogen or helium, run it thru a closed Brayton cycle (gas turbine) and then use the waste heat from the Brayton cycle in a Rankine cycle (steam turbine) to generate electricity.

Then use the natural gas that you save to make liquid fuels.


I think cost is the major barrier. This is for countries that don't have a lot of natural gas, but produce a lot of CO2. To me this is a reason to sequester CO2. Set a market price for it so people can afford to store it.

Roger Pham

The intention is to replace fossil fuels completely, that's the intention of this device. Otherwise, local PV panels and wind turbines will do just fine to produce electricity for local use.

Local H2 storage and FC can be used for night electricity and cloudy and calm days, while the synthetic methane and synthetic gasoline and diesel can be pumped in or trucked in from the desert for transportation use and home heating for homes that do not have FC-CHP.

Since home H2-FC-CHP is more efficient than the use of methane for CCGT for grid power generation and methane separately for home heating, a separate system for seasonal H2 storage from local excess RE would be helpful for maximal energy efficiency and lowering cost.


I note that "oxygen storage" is in the diagram. Oxygen is the underestimated factor in the fuels and chemical industry. Pure oxygen is best for steelmaking, which provides excess heat for this fuel synthesis. DCL, or direct chemical looping is apparently involved. Last year there was a breakthrough at Ohio State in the field. With iron oxide, oxygen is sequestered and dispersed in a noncombustive process that generates heat and steam, and utilizes CO2 as an "enhancer". The cycling between regeneration and production suggests the ramping characteristics of gas turbines for peak shaving. So a large coal generator and a series of smaller gas turbines can be dispensed with, for one device, that uses coal, gas, biomass, the sun -- anything.

So how much would this system cost?


Israel may be developing natural gas resources soon, so combined cycle base load 24/7 makes sense. They can oxygen blow the turbines using O2 from this process and get CO2 from that.

The fact that they can only make fuels 6 hours per day may be no problem, you just store up the liquid fuels and ship them out or store up the syngas and make fuels 24/7. So given equivalent efficiencies, using natural gas for electricity and solar for fuels makes sense.


Can't wait to buy synthetic fuel for my gasser. Fuel that capture co2 for a zero net emission of co2 overall.

I still have hope that they discover a way to produce cheap hydrogen by water electrolysis chemically or electrically preferably by small appliance tool at the point of sale.


We should have had synfuels after 1973 and the first oil embargo. We should have had synfuels after 1979 and the second oil embargo. We should have had them after 1980 with Carter's synfuels program.

Time and time again the oil companies get their way with our Congress, when you look at campaign contributions, it is no wonder. Israel and other countries do not have domestic oil companies with a strangle hold, they can take meaningful action.


"Should have had"?  They weren't economic.  They aren't, and probably never will be.  The problem is that the energy cost of construction and operation goes up with the price of energy, so the dollar cost per gallon keeps receding into the stratosphere as the price of other energy climbs.


That must be why Shell spent $20 billion on Pearl, because it could not be done profitably.


This seems to be smarter way to get rare fuels than making corn and sugar ethanol and starving 20% of the world population?


Sasol has been making synthetic fuels since 1973 from coal. You can make them from natural gas, coal, biomass or in this case CO2 and water.

We could have started turning coal and natural gas into fuels in 1980, but capital goes where it is most profitable, without regard for the good of the country. Congress chose to fund corn grain ethanol and not synthetic fuels, a mistake IMO.

The problem here is the cost of the power tower versus the fuel produced. The CO2 is not a problem, if you have sequestration, you build a pipe and bring it in.

If you are Israel and do not want to import oil, gasoline, jet fuel or diesel, then you have an option. If you are willing to make the investment and fuel prices support that, then your country and its people have energy security.


@Roger Pham

I suspect the real intention is to obtain research funding. I used to be a university professor so I know all about that. It is not completely bad as it usually provides education benefits if nothing else.


IIUC, SASOL found coal-to-liquids sufficiently difficult that it switched to syngas from SMR as soon as the embargo was lifted.  It's just not economic.


Secunda CTL is a synthetic fuel plant owned by Sasol at Secunda in South Africa. It uses coal liquefaction to produce petroleum-like synthetic crude oil from coal. The process used by Sasol is based on the Fischer–Tropsch process. It is the largest coal liquefaction plant in the world.


Sasol has unveiled plans for an initiative known as Project 2050, which is designed to sustain and expand its integrated value chain in South Africa until at least the middle of the century.

Coal and coal-to-liquids (CTL) form an integral part of this long-term plan and key to its success is group company Sasol Mining, which has already gone virtually all the way to secure the required coal reserves to the half century point.


It amazes me how little science or engineering or even common sense, exists on this blog. You cannot come out ahead by oxidizing carbon, then un-oxidizing it to return to the state previous i.e fuel.

A little Law of Thermodynamics called Entropy interferes. Perhaps you have heard that it is more than difficult, rather it is impossible, to build perpetual motion machines?

All these efforts constitute un-economic efforts in which you have to add energy, that costs money, to do the process.

That will ALWAYS be the case, although there may be political reasons that may seem to neccesitate doing that subsidy.

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