A team of Monash University students has won one of 16 $250,000 prizes in the XPRIZE Carbon Removal Challenge announced at the beginning of the year by Elon Musk and the XPRIZE Foundation.
Musk XPRIZE challenge offers a $100 Million Carbon Removal prize for the best carbon capture technology able to actively remove CO2 out of the atmosphere on a large scale. The student competition is a part of the larger prize and offers a total of $5 million for 23 teams to help them develop their concepts for resubmission to the overall competition.
The Monash Carbon Capture and Conversion team received recognition as they are part of the winners. They are developing a novel biologically-based carbon capture and conversion technology.
Their method captures CO2 from the ocean and air via artificial forestry and microalgae cultures in novel-designed floating photobioreactors. The collected CO2 is then used for the production of cross-laminated timber for sustainable buildings, as well as biochar – the kind of charcoal that can improve and maintain soil fertility.
Other two teams have been announced as winners of the $250,000 prize – the team from the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies and the University of Sydney team.
The students from the University of Tasmania presented their project Blue Symbiosis that aims to turn decommissioned oil and gas infrastructure into aquaculture sites that can produce seaweed.
Seaweed absorbs CO2 and grows, which boosts coastal ecosystems’ ability to take in CO2 and dozens of times quicker than forests on land. Blue Symbiosis hopes to sequester hundreds of millions of tons of carbon every year around the world utilizing seaweed’s sequestration capabilities.
The University of Sydney’s team won the prize with their Sydney Sustainable Carbon project. Its goal is to capture CO2 directly out of the atmosphere to either compress and store it or use it. The technology is based on a promising material called a metal-organic framework, which is a highly porous solid that behaves like a sponge, capable of soaking up specific types of gas molecules.
The winning teams of the $100 million Carbon Removal Competition offer innovative solutions for capturing carbon from the atmosphere and thus mitigating climate change. Such projects are necessary to boost the world’s efforts to find economical and scalable methods capable of extracting CO2 at gigaton scale.