Now thanks to the work of researchers from ETH Zurich, they have demonstrated that it is possible to actually create fuel out of thin air and sunlight. This is what is known as a solar fuel system which captures air and then extracts carbon dioxide and water from it. It also uses a solar redox unit that converts carbon dioxide and water into a mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen, and then another gas-to-liquid unit that converts this into liquid hydrocarbons or methanol.
According to the researchers, “Stable and successful outdoor operation of the overall system under intermittent solar irradiation convincingly demonstrates the technical viability of the thermochemical process chain for converting sunlight and ambient air to drop-in fuels. But bringing such solar fuels to the market will require substantial process optimisation and upscaling, and this should be supported by policy schemes that enable market introduction at commercial scale.”
That being said, while it is promising, the fuel produced using this method is more expensive compared to traditional methods, but we suppose with all new technologies, that is the case until it can scale up and become more affordable.