The notion of turning C02 into something useful sounds wildly futuristic, but scientists are already making promising strides in the area. Launched in 2015, the Carbon XPrize is a US$20 million competition aimed at speeding things along, inviting competing teams to develop technologies that can capture and convert these emissions into products of value. Organizers have today announced the 10 finalists, who will now look to dramatically scale up their solutions and pit them against one another under real-world conditions.

The situation regarding the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasingly dire. The continued burning of fossil fuels has pushed this beyond 400 parts per million (ppm) in some parts of the world, with 350 ppm the concentration experts consider safe. Meanwhile, global temperatures continue to rise and rise.

Clean-burning biofuels, solid rock and carbon nanofibers are just a few of the things researchers have been able to create using carbon dioxide. While exciting, these remain largely proof-of-concept, experimental technologies, and the goal of the Carbon XPrize is to facilitate a big leap, getting them out of the lab and and into use on an industrial-scale.

A total of 46 teams from seven countries entered the Carbon Xprize, looking to develop a breakthrough technology that reimagines C02. Now whittled down to 10 from five countries, the finalists will take a share of a $5 million milestone prize and now look to develop their technologies at one of two locations.

Five will set up at a carbon research facility called the Wyoming Integrated Test Center, in Gillette, Wyoming, where they will look to demonstrate how C02 can be captured and converted from a coal-fired power plant. The other five will work at the Alberta Carbon Conversion Technology Centre in Calgary, Canada, and will try to demonstrate technologies that can capture and convert C02 from a natural gas-fired power plant.

While the semifinal phase tasked teams with demonstrating their technologies at a pilot scale and at a location of their own choosing, they now have to demonstrate those technologies at a scale 10 times greater and in an industrial setting. Here's a quick overview of the remaining teams and what they're trying to create using C02.

Battling it out in Wyoming:

  • Breathe from India, working to use a novel catalyst to produce methanol for use as a fuel and petrochemical feedstock.
  • CarbonCure from Canada, working on stronger and more environmentally-friendly concrete.
  • C4X from China, making chemicals and bio-composite foamed plastics.
  • Carbon Capture Machine form Scotland, trying to produce solid carbonates for use in construction.
  • Carbon Upcycling UCLA from California, developing a concrete replacement that absorbs C02 during production.

And having it out in Calgary:

  • Carbicrete from Montreal, Canada, working on cement-free carbon negative concrete made from waste produced during steel production.
  • C2CNT from the USA, producing carbon nanotubes.
  • Carbon Upcycling Technologies from Calgary, Canada, producing graphitic nanoparticles and graphene derivatives for use in polymers, concrete, epoxies and batteries.
  • CERT from Toronto, Canada, creating new building blocks for industrial chemicals.
  • Newlight from California, using biological systems to create advanced bioplastics.

"We're excited to support these teams as they scale up and start demonstrating under real-world conditions at the industrial test centers," says Dr Marcius Extavour, XPrize senior director of Energy and Resources and prize lead. "This is the final, most ambitious stage of this prize competition."

The Carbon Xprize is expected to conclude in 2020.

The video below provides a brief look at the competition and the 10 finalists.

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