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