Elon Musk’s $ 100 Million Carbon Scrapping XPrize Announces First Winners

The largest ever XPrize competition handed out its first cash prize, with 23 teams of students receiving injections of silver to advance their carbon removal technologies. Among the winners are a mix of cutting-edge projects that tackle the problem of carbon dioxide build-up in the atmosphere, and several that seek to solve more than one environmental problem at a time.

The US $ 100 million Carbon Removal XPrize began in February and aims to accelerate technologies capable of removing CO2 from the ocean and the air. Funded by Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, the competition will run over four years and see competing teams demonstrate not only how carbon can be captured in the air, but also stored safely for at least 100 years.

As part of the larger competition, $ 5 million has been set aside for a scholarship for students. The idea behind it was to inspire the next generation of climate innovators, and 195 teams from 44 countries threw their hats in the ring. Their submissions involved detailed proposals on their technologies to convince a panel of judges that not only were they scientifically viable, but that the students possessed the technical know-how to execute their plans.

Twenty-three teams were selected as winners, of which 18 received $ 250,000 to continue to develop their technologies with the opportunity to participate in the main competition. Five others received $ 100,000 to develop their technologies designed to support the measurement, reporting or verification of carbon removal in a broader sense. Let’s take a look at some interesting examples from this crop of winners.

CO2 at the service of asbestos removal

Skyrenu Technologies aims to treat waste from asbestos mines as part of its CO2 elimination operations.

Skyrenu Technologies

Skyrenu Technologies at the University of Sherbrooke and the Inrs-Eau Terre Environnement Research Center in Canada hopes to use a direct air capture (DAC) system to solve two problems at the same time. These reactors are designed to remove CO2 from ambient air, and the team’s version channels the high-concentration gaseous CO2 into a separate device where it combines with tailings to produce carbonate rocks for easy storage.

It plans to install them directly at mine waste sites to minimize transport, and its first port of call will be abandoned asbestos mines in Quebec, in the hope of reducing the health risks associated with the tailings. The process will be powered by renewable energy, and the team says two gigatonnes of existing tailings in asbestos mines offer 700 metric tonnes of CO2 removal potential.

Old oil rigs as algae farms

Blue Symbiosis aims to reuse old oil and gas platforms for use as infrastructure for algae cultivation
Blue Symbiosis aims to reuse old oil and gas platforms for use as infrastructure for algae cultivation

Blue symbiosis

The Blue Symbiosis team at the Australian University of Tasmania seeks to harness the natural CO2 absorption properties of algae, by reallocating oil and gas platforms into regenerative agricultural sites. Offshore platforms provide the trunk, while algae will serve as branches, according to the team. The team aims to increase production to the point where the system can have a real impact on the health of the oceans, with some of the algae also expected to be used in building materials such as fire-resilient bricks, thus making it possible to quantify the stored carbon.

“I investigated the potential for reallocating oil and gas infrastructure to regenerative algae sites, which led to the conclusion that this is really promising for environmental and business reasons,” said team leader Joshua Castle. “The decommissioning of oil and gas infrastructure is an emerging A $ 60 billion (US $ 44 billion) problem for governments and industries that they should cost share. Algae have the potential to provide vast environmental benefits for ocean health – but if they cannot be extended, significant impacts on ocean health cannot be realized.

Supercharged DAC

E-quester claims to have developed a design for a DAC reactor that is 16% more efficient than commercially available versions, thanks to a new electrochemical regeneration system
E-quester claims to have developed a design for a DAC reactor that is 16% more efficient than commercially available versions, thanks to a new electrochemical regeneration system


DAC systems are shaping up to be a key pillar in future carbon removal efforts, and the University of Toronto’s E-quester team have come up with a version they say is 16% more fuel efficient. energy than those currently on the market. It depends on what the team calls a new electrochemical regeneration system that recycles captured CO2 to help fuel the air filtration process, with the pure CO2 it produces that can be used or sequestered.

CO2 for ocean deacidification

The Acid Project team at the University of Miami
The Acid Project team at the University of Miami

Jenny Hudak / University of Miami

One of the consequences of climate change is the acidification of our oceans, which poses a serious threat to marine ecosystems and coral reefs in particular. The University of Miami’s Acid Project team is tackling this problem through what they call “green hydroxide,” which is a low-carbon form of alkalinity made from mine waste. , water and renewable electricity. This can then be added to the ocean to both remove CO2 and reduce acidity.

“Basically it’s like a big Alka Seltzer,” says Laura Stieghorst, team leader. “When the tablet dissolves in water, it can neutralize the acid. Distributing this liquid in the ocean will have a similar effect – and speed up a natural part of the geological carbon cycle that takes thousands of years. Accelerating it on a human time scale can safely block our anthropogenic carbon emissions for more than 100,000 years. “

Lock in plant waste

The Carbon Down Under team in the Southern Illinois University lab
The Carbon Down Under team in the Southern Illinois University lab

Carbon down

Global agricultural practices produce gigatons of plant waste each year, from grass clippings to leftover vegetables, which generate CO2 emissions as the material rots. The Carbon Down Under team at Southern Illinois University is developing a system designed to liquefy this biomass, turning it into a tea-like solution that can be injected into underground voids. Once there, the microbes in the basement will consume the solution and prevent the CO2 from entering the atmosphere. This has been lab tested, with the team continuing to experiment to explore its potential in the real world.

“Basically we are trying to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide by placing the carbon deep underground,” says team member Tia Zimmerman. “But what if the little creatures that live there don’t like it?” What if they start doing something that negatively affects us on the surface? We don’t yet know what they’re going to do with the carbon, and I want to help find out.

Registration for the main Carbon Removal XPrize competition, with $ 95 million remaining in prizes, is open until December 1. More information is available via the source link below.

Source: XPrice

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