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Earth Businesses The Almighty Buck Science

$20 Million XPRIZE Takes On Carbon Emissions 47

An anonymous reader writes: XPRIZE has announced a new, $20 million competition that aims to tackle carbon emissions. They're not looking to reduce emissions, but rather to convert them into something useful. They provide examples: "products like new and sustainable building materials; low-emission transportation fuels; and alternative chemical products that can be used to make everything from clothing and running shoes, to safer, stronger automobiles and breakthrough medicines." Awards will be given for making use of emissions from two different sources: coal power plants and natural gas power plants. "The winning team will convert the most CO2 emissions into the highest value products. To be competitive, teams will have to make the business case for their approach as well as minimize their use of energy, water, land, and other inputs that have consequences for the environment."
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$20 Million XPRIZE Takes On Carbon Emissions

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  • I question whether there could ever be enough demand for these products to put a real dent in carbon emissions.

    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2015 @07:55PM (#50623319)

      I question whether there could ever be enough demand for these products to put a real dent in carbon emissions.

      There is enormous potential demand for CO2 for use in enhanced oil recovery [wikipedia.org] and fracking. Pump the CO2 down, and it dissolves and mobilizes the hydrocarbons, and displaces them upward. It is better than the water based solutions currently used. Any shale formation capable of retaining methane, can reliably store the CO2. Eventually, most of the CO2 will form stable carbonates with the rock. We just need a system of pipelines to carry the CO2 from power plants to the oilfields. Another option, would be to transport coal or gas to the oilfields, and burn it locally where the CO2 could be put to immediate use, and then build long distance high voltage power lines to population centers.

    • It is not a $20m prize, it's 3 x $7.5m prizes and 5 x $500k prizes. Chances are it won't be won because it has to be tested at existing facilities which will severely limit possibilities.

  • Geopolymer Concrete

    • by RichMan ( 8097 )

      Bioengineered cellulose slurry producing construction fibre. Base it on fast growing bamboo or hemp.
      Concrete requires too much energy input.

      • Chlorella [wikipedia.org]. Its photosynthetic efficiency can reach 8%, comparable with other highly efficient crops such as sugar cane.
        • Chlorella [wikipedia.org]. Its photosynthetic efficiency can reach 8% ...

          8% is only achievable under ideal laboratory conditions, included carbonated water and dim artificial light. Under sunlight and natural concentrations of CO2, it is no where near that efficient. It also has to be grown in sanitized and sealed containers to protect it from viruses and microscopic predators. Concentrating, drying, and processing the algae is energy intensive.

          You can read papers from the 1960s about how algae is going to be the fuel/food of the future. That didn't happen. In the half centu

          • That's if you want to eat it. I thought the prize was for CO2 reduction at coal and NG plants.
            • That's if you want to eat it.

              No. That's if you want to grow it. Open ponds will quickly become colonized by rotifers, amoebas, and other micro-organisms that will feast on your algae. The pond will also quickly be colonized by wild algae that will out compete any algae optimized for human use rather than survival. So you will end up with a green soup that will have little net CO2 consumption, will require steady energy intensive inputs such as fertilizer, and will have little economic value.

              If algae lived up to even half the promis

          • Algae fuel is currently in production at a few companies. The cost isn't yet low enough for widespread production, but neither is it outlandish. Most of the cost barrier right now can be fixed through better economies of scale.
    • by lgw ( 121541 )

      Already solved: trees, dammit, trees. Where's my millions?

      Convert CO2 to renewable building material? How will we ever do that? Scientists, assemble! Seriously, though, tree farms are pretty good at this, and it's reasonably efficient.

      • When you're burning in a single year what took trees 10s of thousands of years to lay down it's not possible to plant enough trees to make any significant difference to the problem.

  • What ever they make, needs to resist biodegrading, or it's just going dump all that shit back out.

    If you combined hydrogen and CO2 to make some kind of plastic, but when you dump it bacteria turn it into methane, you've just made the problem worse.

  • In World War II the British government once asked civilians to turn in extra pots and pans to be melted down for materials for the war effort. They received a small mountain of them. I don't know what they did with them but the materials were all but useless. It was a propaganda effort, intended to make the British people aware of how serious the war effort was.

    If this CO2 product plan actually makes the slightest dent in CO2 storage I'll be shocked. It's a propaganda measure, and a mis-aimed one at that.
  • Solution (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anon-Admin ( 443764 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2015 @08:36PM (#50623525) Homepage Journal

    "products like new and sustainable building materials; low-emission transportation fuels; and alternative chemical products that can be used to make everything from clothing and running shoes, to safer, stronger automobiles and breakthrough medicines."

    Hemp sequesters more CO2 than almost all other plants at 22 tons per Hectare.

    From it you can make

    Building Materials
    Diesel fuel
    Cooking oil
    Clothing
    Shoes
    Paper
    The list goes on!

    From some select strains of the plant you can make lots of different medicines.

    Now that I have provided the answer to your question, I request that you donate the award to the repeal of these stupid drug laws.

    • by delt0r ( 999393 )
      Hemp strains for materials are useless for smoking. As a result are in fact *not* illegal to grow in most places. Yet as a material, its kinda Meh.
  • As if I would submit an idea to them. I'd patent it and make a lot more money than any prize through them.

    • by delt0r ( 999393 )
      You know how much money "idea patents" make. None. The idea is the easy bit.
      • The idea is to patent it and build a company around the idea. The patent protects you while going around looking for funding.

        • by delt0r ( 999393 )
          Oh i understand that idea. Fact is, it doesn't work out that well in practice. The hard bit is always the company. And lets face it, your not going to be able to afford the lawyers or the 2-5 years of legal battles to enforce the patent anyway. So its either a marginal idea no one gives a shit about. Or its taken from right under your feet. There are many many examples. Patents Protect patent attorneys and lawyers. No one else.
  • by Ecuador ( 740021 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2015 @08:46PM (#50623585) Homepage

    VW has a script that converts CO2 to anything you want while you are in testing mode. Does that count?

  • by Layzej ( 1976930 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2015 @09:04PM (#50623703)

    "A German chemical company, BASF, and a US company, Novomer, are capturing CO2 from power plants or other waste sources, using novel catalysts to make polypropylene carbonate. This plastic can be used for coatings, adhesives, foams and packaging and can replace other plastics in these applications that are currently made from oil. Both companies are moving towards commercial processes. Bayer, another large German chemical company, is also advancing a process to make polyurethane foams using carbon dioxide."

    "A more brute force approach is that taken by the Solar Jet programme in Switzerland, led by Dr Aldo Steinfeld of ETH-Zurich collaborating with Shell. They designed a clever reactor that generates very high temperatures from solar energy to break down carbon dioxide and water, converting them to hydrogen and carbon monoxide. From this mixture they can make kerosene for jet fuel using well-known chemical processes. This is still at an early stage – so far they have made one litre of fuel – but sometimes these high temperature processes are more straightforward to scale up than catalyst-based approaches."

    - http://www.theguardian.com/sus... [theguardian.com]

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They designed a clever reactor that generates very high temperatures from solar energy to break down carbon dioxide and water, converting them to hydrogen and carbon monoxide.

      Or, you know, you can just burn them and convert them back getting a fraction of the energy back.

      The best way to sequester CO2 from power plants is not to burn fossil fuels. I know, crazy idea.

      • The best way to sequester CO2 from power plants is not to burn fossil fuels. I know, crazy idea.

        Provide an energy source that is cheaper, has equivalent energy density and reasonable storage requirements and I'm sure we'd all be happy to switch.

    • ... break down carbon dioxide and water, converting them to hydrogen and carbon monoxide.

      Also known as Water Gas [wikipedia.org] or Coal or Town gas [wikipedia.org]. This was a major source of lighting in Victorian England [wikipedia.org].

  • I would have thought that finding a way capture CO2 emissions and convert to liquid fuel would have been the ideal option if you can do it with some, not insane amount, of energy. Solar would be ideally suited to this as it doesn't matter that much if the power levels vary during the day and the fuel essentially acts as your energy storage.

    It doesn't solve carbon capture and storage but it would replace burning fossil fuels whose carbon is still stuck in the ground. I believe Solar Jet is looking at somet

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The problem with most "pie in the sky" ideas of converting CO2 or H2O to energy is that CO2 and H2O are both waste products of higher forms of energy.
      When you burn complex hydrocarbons, you get simple stable molecules like CO2 and H2O. In order to convert CO2 back to carbon or H2O back to
      hydrogen requires more energy than you get by burning the hydrocarbon. Otherwise you could create an infinite energy machine that converted
      H2O and CO2 back to carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, burn the carbon/hydrogen and do

  • by Plumpaquatsch ( 2701653 ) on Tuesday September 29, 2015 @10:11PM (#50623993) Journal
    A car dropping Lego bricks from its exhaust.
  • Turn carbon to diamonds for the screens of iDevices, for Tesla windshields, for hyperdrive exhaust nozzles, for polychromicanderlids... For your girlfriend, for the soles of your shoes, for the poor and disenfranchised, for data storage. Diamond is a controlled substance currently and it would be beneficial to the economy and to industry to have an unlimited supply.

  • My invention just transforms the carbon into diamonds, nothing useful like running shoes.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    As if carbon is some sort of terrible poison that we need to eradicate from the planet. Fucking idiots.

    There is no such thing as 'catastrophic man-made global warming'.

    www.climatedepot.com
    www.wattsupwiththat.com

  • I planted a tree. Where's my money?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    OK, all those that want to eliminate all CO2 from the atmosphere, raise your hands...

    Everyone that raised their hands wants to kill all life on the planet. CO2 is plant food. Without it, all plants will die. Soon after, all other life will then die.

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