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The First Winners Of Elon Musk’s $100 Million Carbon Removal Xprize Competition Have Been Announced

The largest XPrize competition has been completed and as a result of that, 23 student teams have received cash prizes to pursue their innovative ideas.

The US$100-million Carbon Removal XPrize kicked off back in February and is funded by Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. The aim is to capture carbon and store it for a century.

$5 million were devoted to Student Awards. 195 teams from 44 countries participated in the competition with their smart ideas.

18 of the teams were handed $250,000 to work on their projects. 5 were given $100,000 to develop their carbon-capturing technologies.

Styrene Technologies from Canada’s Universite De Sherbrooke and Inrs-Eau Terre Environnement Research Centre aims to make use of the direct air capture (DAC) system. it captures carbon and gaseous CO2 is then stored in form of carbonated rocks.

The process will run on renewable energy, and it is being said that the two gigatons of existing tailings at the asbestos mines offer 700 metric tons of CO2 removal potential.

The Blue Symbiosis team from Australia’s University of Tasmania is researching the natural CO2-absorbing properties of seaweed.

“I researched the potential of repurposing oil and gas infrastructure to regenerative seaweed sites, which led to the conclusion that this holds real promise for both environmental and commercial reasons,” says team leader Joshua Castle. “Decommissioning oil and gas infrastructure is an emerging AU$60-billion (US$44-billion) problem for governments and industries in which they are expected to share the costs. Seaweed has the potential to deliver vast environmental benefits for ocean health – but if it can’t be scaled, significant impacts on ocean health can’t be realized”.

The University of Toronto is working on its 16 percent more energy-efficient project than this.

The Acid Project team from the University of Miami is solving this problem through the mechanism of “green hydroxide,” which is a low-carbon form of alkalinity made with mining waste products, water, and renewable electricity. if added to the ocean, it can reduce CO2 and acidity in the ocean.

“Essentially, it’s like one big Alka Seltzer,” says team leader Laura Stieghorst. “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 geologic carbon cycle that takes thousands of years. Accelerating it to human-time scales can safely lock away our anthropogenic carbon emissions for more than 100,000 years.”

The Carbon Down Under team from Southern Illinois University are working on designs to liquefy this biomass, turning it into a tea-like solution that can be injected into underground voids.

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

Registration for the main Carbon Removal XPrize competition is still open and it will be open till December 1. There is still $95 million left for prize money.