Environment

Elon Musk throws $100 million at carbon removal in biggest XPrize yet

Elon Musk throws $100 million ...
Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is funding a $100 million competition for carbon removal
Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is funding a $100 million competition for carbon removal
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Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is funding a $100 million competition for carbon removal
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Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is funding a $100 million competition for carbon removal

A new XPrize competition has been announced that takes aim at the problem of carbon pollution, with hopes of unearthing new technologies that can remove it from the atmosphere and ocean. The prize money is being put up by Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who highlights the need for "carbon negativity" and warns that "time is of the essence."

The US$100 million Carbon Removal competition is the latest contest from XPrize designed to tackle the globe's most pressing problems with technology, and is its largest one to date in terms of incentive. It will take place across four years and involve entrants around the world who will be tasked with developing prototype systems capable of removing one ton of carbon dioxide from the air per day.

As part of this, the teams will need to show how the captured carbon can be locked away safely, with the criteria dictating that teams should aim for a 100-year period minimum. Teams will be judged mainly on the cost per ton of carbon captured, and will need to demonstrate how it can be scaled up to the gigaton level.

“We want to make a truly meaningful impact," says Musk. "Carbon negativity, not neutrality. The ultimate goal is scalable carbon extraction that is measured based on the ‘fully considered cost per ton’ which includes the environmental impact. This is not a theoretical competition; we want teams that will build real systems that can make a measurable impact and scale to a gigaton level. Whatever it takes. Time is of the essence."

This competition is separate to the $20 million Carbon XPrize which was launched in 2015 and is now in its final stages. That too is aimed at tackling the increasing concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, though entrants are made to demonstrate how the captured carbon can be turned into useful products.

XPrize says full guidelines for the Carbon Removal competition will be revealed on Earth Day in April, when registration for teams will open. Eighteen months later, 15 finalists will be selected and handed $1 million as a milestone prize to build their prototypes. The eventual grand prize winner will earn $50 million, while $20 and $10 million will be awarded to second and third place respectively.

"The goal of this competition is to inspire entrepreneurs and engineers to build the carbon dioxide removal solutions, many of which have only been discussed and debated. We want to see them built, tested, and validated," says Peter H. Diamandis, Founder and Executive Chairman of XPrize.

Source: XPrize

12 comments
ScienceFan
Elon Musk likes dual use technologies, so grow sugar and store it in a dry place. Capture carbon and solve obesity. Costs less per ton than the lowest cost DAC and can be scaled up. Also creates a backup of calories should we ever need it. And by the time we hit an ice age we warm the climate by releasing the carbon back into the atmosphere. Ideally we cultivate something like kelp to grow with high sugar content. Taking co2 from the ocean. So it does not compete with land use.
Worzel
One sure way of killing all life on the planet, is to remove the CO2 from the atmosphere. When CO2 is reduced to 150 ppm, all plant life will start to die, closely followed by all animal life dependent upon it.
buzzclick
What goes around comes around. The water, O2. CO2, iron, carbon and all the rest of the elements that exist today will still be here 1,000's of years forward, perhaps in a different state. So our man Elon spurs a competition to efficiently and effectively sequester CO2 concentration back to its more benign state. Chemists know that it's not the element itself that is harmful but its concentration. so where can we put it? Looks like we have 2 main choices: either we inject it into the subterranean Earth or to outer space. We have released too much CO2 into the atmosphere precipitating harmful levels. Either we slow down and stop over consuming so much or get rid of it by sweeping it under the carpet. An overly part of humanity wants either to ignore the consequences or come up with an ineffective band-aid solution. The rest of the humans are just going along for the ride and feel somewhat helpless.

So the guy who wants to develop a way for interstellar travel to colonize mars and escape the foreboding and dark future ahead, while he instigates an effort to find better ways to deal with the problems terrestrially. It kinda fits doesn't it?
Slawdog
We have no choice but to learn to manage our environment or environments elsewhere. Mr. Musk understands this concept - forget global warming and begin global management. Climate change is natural, the ideal state debatable, but sustain and work from there before Ma Nature takes us out.
Kaiba
Or just buy 100 millions dollars worth of forest.
myale
I guess sky diamonds would certainly qualify for the 100 year lock up (carbon dioxide to diamonds) - but I think it would struggle with the scale
Christian Lassen
Irrigate the Sahara, Arabian, and Gobi Deserts. Massive Desal plants to do it and pipe it in. Make sure drainage exists so it doesn't create Salton Sea kinda places. Would need Ammonia and fertilizer as well.
Username
Instead of sequestering captured co2 we should split it. Releasing o2 and using carbon in manufacturing. ie. carbon fiber.
rninne
Why do we need to invent a machine to capture carbon when nature has already solved this problem. If we just re-forested the wild places we have lost over the last 50 years that would go a long way to setting things back on the right path.
Nelson Hyde Chick
This helps Musk rationalizing spewing ungodly amounts of pollution into the air to fulfill his wet dream of colonizing Mars.