Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk has announced that he will donate $100 million in prizes for the XPrize competition, where scientists will present their technologies for capturing and storing carbon dioxide from the Earth's atmosphere.
Elon Musk announced his intention to donate $100 million to the developer of the best carbon capture technology at the end of last month, but now the competition details have become known.
After Musk became the richest person in the world, he asked his millions of Twitter followers for “ways to donate money that really make a difference,” so the $100 million is coming from Musk's own foundation.
The XPrize competition will last for four years and will end in 2025 on Earth Day. It will be worldwide – that is, scientists from around the world will be able to participate. However, the full list of terms and conditions will be announced on April 22.
Musk noted that the competition will not be theoretical. The organizers want participants to create real systems that can make a measurable impact on the environment.
Winners will have to “demonstrate a solution that can pull carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere or oceans and lock it away permanently in an environmentally benign way,” according to Elon Musk's XPrize foundation.
The technology to be developed by the contestants will need to be able to remove one ton of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere per day, be viable in a scalable, proven model at the time of presentation, and be able to increase its efficiency “to gigaton levels.”
Developers of the best carbon capture technologies will receive significant monetary rewards: the winner will receive $50 million, second place will get $20 million, and third place will receive $10 million. In addition, the top 15 teams will receive a million dollars each, and 25 scholarships of $200,000 will be distributed among the student teams.
XPrize organizers thus want to repeat the success of the 2004 Ansari XPrize competition, in which participants were invited to launch a reusable crewed spacecraft into space twice within two weeks. That space competition drew the attention of private companies to space exploration.
Carbon capture technology is getting popular nowadays since only reducing carbon emissions alone won't help combat global warming. According to scientists, to prevent further warming after reducing emissions, at least 35.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide must be removed from the atmosphere annually. This is roughly the total amount of carbon dioxide that the global industry emitted into the atmosphere in 2018.
In total, 21 projects in the world use carbon capture and storage technology, another 22 projects are under development.