In a lab project not a little-bit reminiscent of alchemy, scientists at the U.S. Naval Laboratory are developing a carbon-neutral means to convert seawater to combustible liquid fuel.

While an alchemist’s dream of turning lead into gold has been shown to be impossible, nuclear-powered aircraft carriers may in coming years be able to take the abundantly available water they float upon and power their aircraft.

At this point, the lab technique of recombining hydrogen and CO2 into liquid fuel is not mass-production ready, but researchers are working toward this goal.

What’s more, since the CO2 in the fuel comes from seawater, and can be reabsorbed back after combustion, researcher Dr. Heather Willauer says this effectively means this fuel would be defined as carbon neutral.

The catch for now is it takes about twice the electrical energy to do the process than the energy value of the fuel that is produced.

Scientists are working to reduce this energy use equation, and while not explicitly stated, even if there is net energy loss, it may still not be a deal breaker for military applications.

The strategic decision could turn out to be that the value of being able to produce fuel without need of refueling ships, or other costly and time consuming refueling means, may be worth it.

Or, maybe they will indeed get it to be an economical proposition. If so, that could have vast implications for civilian applications as well.