Elon Musk SpaceX
Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Back on January 22, Elon Musk announced a competition with a massive prize pool of $100 million to help create carbon capture technologies that can tackle with global warming. It was known that Musk will be collaborating with XPRIZE, a non profit known for taking up ambitious projects in the field of world changing technology, for this goal. Now, XPRIZE has revealed more information about the competition, highlighting ways to earn the advertised $100 million. As told earlier through the tweet, the money will go ‘towards a prize for best carbon capture technology’.

A little later than promised (a subsequent tweet had claimed that details will be released the very next week), the details are finally out. The entire $100 million will be divided into various subsets. The competition is aimed at encouraging the invention of technologies that will be able to collect, filter and store both new carbon dioxide emissions and CO2 already in the air and ocean.

The competition will officially begin on the 22nd of April, this year, and the participants will have four years to submit their complete models, with the competition closing on Earth day 2025, a date as appropriate as any. However, the 15 finalists, which will be chosen by a panel of judges, will be awarded $1 million each after the first 18 months only. These finalists can then use these funds to further expand their projects and create full-scale models to stand a chance to win the grand prize of $50 million, awarded to the winner and $20 millions and $10 million respectively to the first and second runner up-s. Student teams are also allowed and encouraged to participate, and twenty-five top teams will be awarded $200,000 each, in the first 18 months as well.

The models will understandably have to be top-notch and parfait. Quoting the XPRIZE website, “To win the competition, teams must demonstrate a rigorous, validated scale model of their carbon removal solution, and further must demonstrate to a team of judges their solution to economically scale to gigaton levels. The objective of this XPRIZE is to inspire and help scale efficient solutions to collectively achieve the 10 gigaton per year carbon removal target by 2050, to help fight climate change and restore the Earth’s carbon balance.”

The main metric for the competition will be the cost per ton of carbon removed, and the final parameter will be the time for which the carbon can be locked up.

The site also notes that all information is preliminary and subject to change, hence those interested must remain up to date via the website.

The site also highlights the environmental importance of the competition. The problem of global warming is bigger than life, escalating quickly and not given due importance. Additionally, if we keep moving at the current rate, earth’s temperature will further by 6 degree Celsius every year by the year of 2100.  That will be a boiling temperature in equatorial regions, glaciers will be melting and there will be flash floods everywhere. This competition will hopefully create the required awareness, and quick start investors and researchers alike to look at this problem seriously.

As Elon Musk himself said, “We are running the most dangerous experiment in the history right now, which is to see how much carbon dioxide the atmosphere can handle before there is environmental catastrophe.” Hopefully the experiments now will be towards a more positive cause, to undo the damage done, and curtail that which will be done in the future.