A team of postgraduate engineering students at the University of Toronto won $250,000 for their efforts to capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere using electricity.
The team was named one of the finalists in the XPRIZE’s $5M Carbon Removal Student Competition, which was funded through a $100 million donation by Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
The E-quester team, which formed earlier this year, created a method of capturing and isolating carbon dioxide to create a net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Traditional carbon capture processes isolate CO2 by turning it into a solid salt. Then, they heat the salt back up to create CO2 gas. However, the heating process is an expensive endeavor.
The E-quester method skips the heating step and instead uses an electrochemical process to recover carbon.
“We are beyond excited to be receiving this award. We believed that we were a strong contender with our innovative system design, but we also knew there were a lot of people with brilliant ideas competing for this award. It is such an honour to be recognized as one of the top student teams,” said PhD candidate Celine Xiao.
The team will reinvest the $250,000 into lab equipment. Which will help them figure out the most efficient substance to speed up the chemical reaction involved in the process. The team is moving forward into the next phase of the XPRIZE competition and hopes to compete to be one of 15 teams that secures $1 million.
Two other Canadian universities had teams or parts of teams that were named finalists.
- Skyrenu Technology from the Université De Sherbrooke and Inrs-Eau Terre Environnement Research Centre and;
- Takacha (Safi Organics) which had team members from the University of British Columbia along with Northeastern University and IISC Bangalore
The team from U of T now moves onto the final stage of the competition, which will see a winner receive $50 million. The winning team will need to demonstrate three things:
- a working solution that removes at least 1000 tonnes of carbon
- their costs at a scale of one million tonnes a year and;
- show how the technology can expand to billions of tonnes in the future.