Elon Musk, now the world’s richest man, tweeted the other day that he’s giving away US$100 million to anyone who can come up with the best carbon capture technology. Those interested are encouraged to go for it.
Some news outlets indicated that Musk was referring to the nonprofit Xprize Foundation, which regularly holds competitions for various innovative technologies. In so doing, Musk hopes to encourage more scientists to participate in developing carbon capture technology.
Speaking of, carbon capture technologies are nothing new. Their mechanics are relatively mythical yet simple: these technologies function by containing the carbon that is released by sources such as factories into the atmosphere within some sort of a container. This process is usually referred to as CCS, which stands for carbon capture and storage.
Several companies have already poured resources into carbon capture R&D, and this technology is already currently put to commercial use in the environment-centric E.U. and heavily air-polluted China. However, factories that employ such technologies on a massive scale are few and far between partly because of the cost. Factories are by and large unwilling to cough up the capital, seeing as how various CCS equipment start at hundreds of millions of dollars.
CCS may pay unintentional dividends. For instance, recycled and repackaged carbon can be used to generate electricity. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean we’re at the age of self-generating electricity, since carbon capturing requires massive amounts of electricity, with limited recycling efficacy. Case in point, one working example of carbon recycling at the moment is a company which repackages carbon for beverage companies for carbonated drinks.
Musk has been referred to as a real-life version of Iron Man partially because he can always challenge the existing paradigms of industries and thereby transform traditional methods of thinking via seemingly impossible means, such as his current focus on Tesla EVs and SpaceX rockets. If someone were able to turn CCS technology on its head like he would and therefore change the world, he will not hold back on doling out rewards.
After becoming the world’s richest man, Musk said that money is unimportant to him, and that he will invest most of his funds to build infrastructure on Mars. At the same time, Musk will also allocate some of his money to improve the current situation on earth. One should consider this $100 million to be a slim olive branch.
(Image: Flickr/Daniel Oberhaus CC BY 2.0)