Riding the waves: Will seawater provide fuel for Navy ships?


It may sound like science fiction, but one day in the not-too-distant future Navy and Marine vessels may be making their own fuel from seawater, the National Journal reports.

Scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory are developing a way to take carbon dioxide (CO2) and produce hydrogen gas (H2) from the ocean, “subsequently catalytically converting the CO2 and H2 into jet fuel by a gas-to-liquids process,” according to a military news release.

Although there’s no guarantee that the method will become “commercially viable, the technology could transform naval operations,” writes Journal reporter Marina Koren.

“If they made fuel at sea, they wouldn’t be buying it,” says lead researcher Heather Willauer, an analytical chemist.

Navy drones, called gliders, already can “harvest energy from the ocean thermoclime,” according to a contract awarded this month and posted on the Navy’s Federal Business Opportunities website.

By using layers of warm water near the surface and colder water below to propel themselves, the drones will be able to silently gather intelligence and supply “the kind of data that could turn the tide in war,” Time magazine’s Swampland blog reports.

About 150 gliders are scheduled to be delivered to the Navy next year.

Time’s report is making news in Russia with headlines such as: “Navy’s ocean-powered drones to wage underwater war.”