Musk’s CO2 competition details: Up to $ 50 million in individual prize money, $ 200,000 for 25 university teams

Tesla and SpaceX boss Elon Musk has kept his word, albeit with a little delay: On January 22nd, he announced that he would donate $ 100 million of his huge fortune to a competition to find the best technology to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Details should follow by the end of the week, but it was a long time coming. On Monday, however, the X-Prize Foundation, which has organized similar competitions since 1994, actually published more detailed information on Musk’s project.

Tesla boss wants to remove CO2

With Tesla, Musk wants to make transportation and the entire global energy system lower in CO2, but that may not be enough or it will be quick enough. According to the X-Prize Foundation, the world’s leading scientists estimate that 6 gigatons of greenhouse gas will have to be removed from the atmosphere by 2030 and even 10 gigatons per year by 2050. And it is precisely about doing this as efficiently as possible and on a large scale, that is what the Tesla boss’s new competition is all about.

It is known as the X-Prize Carbon Removal and, according to the foundation, is the largest of its kind in history, funded by Musk and his own foundation, the Musk Foundation. According to the description, innovators and teams from all over the world can participate. They should develop and demonstrate solutions that remove carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere or the oceans and store it in an environmentally friendly and safe manner. In addition, the proposed solutions must be suitable to be scaled up to a use in the gigaton range.


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According to the X-Prize, the actual registration for the competition does not begin until April 22nd as Earth Day. Then even more detailed information should be provided. However, the foundation has already described some basic rules and the distribution of the total of 100 million dollars from the assets of the Tesla boss.

$ 50 million for the overall winner

Participating teams must show a verifiable prototype that can remove at least 1 ton of carbon dioxide per day, and prove that it can be economically scaled to the gigaton level. The main criterion is the total costs per tonne of CO2, whereby X-Prize also wants to consider possible additional environmental benefits and products resulting from the respective process. The duration of storage also plays a role. According to the foundation, at least 100 years are “desirable”.

In addition, Musk’s money should be awarded in stages. After 18 months, a jury will give the 15 best teams $ 1 million each for their further work, writes X-Prize. This should be a support in building larger demonstration systems for the final price. In addition, the foundation will award 25 scholarships of $ 200,000 each to student teams in the competition during this phase. That leaves $ 80 million from the Tesla CEO. $ 50 million of this will go to the final winning team, $ 20 million to the runner-up and the remaining $ 10 million to the third. The competition ends on Earth Day 2025, after a total of four years.


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