We all know that the best option for energy generation in the future is a variety of renewable energy sources, hopefully backed up by smart grid and energy storage technologies. But as we build that clean energy future, our modern lives are still powered by fossil fuels and the burning of those fuels is releasing tons of carbon dioxide into the air. What do we do with those emissions in the meantime to keep the damage to a minimum?
The latest XPrize competition is aiming to tackle a very large problem by offering a very large reward for a solution. Announced yesterday, the Carbon XPrize challenge is looking for the best technologies that convert the most CO2 into one or more products with the highest net value. Basically, they want to make something useful and beneficial out of fossil fuel emissions, so that those emissions stay out of the atmosphere.
The 4-½ year competition is being co-sponsored by NRG, an energy company, and COSIA (Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance) and will separate the new technologies for testing at either a coal power plant or a natural gas facility.
“We are living in an age of unprecedented technological progress and prosperity driven by energy,” said XPRIZE Chairman and CEO Peter Diamandis. “Yet, most of this energy comes from burning fossil fuels, a leading contributor to climate change. We are embarking on one urgent step in XPRIZE’s energy roadmap of incentivizing a clean and positive energy future that addresses a suite of Grand Challenges.”
The challenge is looking for ways to make things like "alternative cement, concrete, and other building materials; chemicals used to manufacture a variety of industrial and consumer goods; low-carbon transportation fuels, and possibly new products altogether."
There are already companies developing ways to make concrete, fertilizer, alternative fuels and even graphene from CO2, so the potential for making useful products is known, the competition just wants to find the absolute best options.
XPrize will have a judging panel for evaluating the different submissions from teams and also a third-party board made up of scientists to analyze the technologies' abilities to convert CO2. If you want to join a team and get involved, go to the official Carbon XPrize site.