Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT-Bombay) students have bagged a million-dollar price for developing a technology that can remove carbon from the atmosphere.
The team consisted of four students, Srinath Iyer (Ph.D. student), Anwesha Banerjee (Ph.D. student), Srushti Bhamare (BTech+MTech student), and Shubham Kumar (Junior Research fellow-Earth Science) also known as ‘SASIITB’.
The team of students was also accompanied by two faculty members. Along with their support, the team managed to secure a grant worth $250,000 (approximately ₹1.85 crores) from the XPRIZE Foundation, which is a part of the Elon Musk Foundation, a new-age technology for Sustainable Innovation Forum at Glasgow’s COP26 summit.
The students won the grant for developing a tri-modular technology that captures carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or from the source of emission and turns them into salt. This is the only team in India to win this award.
The Big Payout- XPRIZE
XPRIZE and the Musk Foundation announced awards of $250,000 for teams contesting in the Carbon Removal Milestone and grand prize awards for numerous carbon removal pathways– land, air, oceans, and rocks.
They announced a grant of $100 million (around ₹745 crores) in April this year for anyone who came up with a sustainable technology that removed carbon from the atmosphere and another $5 million (around ₹37 crores) as a student award.
To win the prize, participants had to come up with a working solution that removed at least 1000 tonnes of carbon per year and show a pathway of achieving a scale of gigatonnes per year in the future.
Also, the methodologies and techniques that were used to elevate the standards of precision, assessment, and time needed for carbon measurements were a few of the factors that were considered. And almost 50% of the participants of a team need to be enrolled in an educational institution to be eligible for the Carbon Removal Student Competition.
“We want to make a truly meaningful impact. Carbon negativity, not neutrality. The ultimate goal is scalable carbon extraction technologies that are measured based on the ‘fully considered cost per ton’ which includes the environmental impact.
This is not a theoretical competition; we want teams that will build real systems that can make a measurable impact and scale to a gigaton level. What it takes. Time is of the essence,” said the Tesla and SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk.
What Did ‘SASIITB’ Create?
The team created a tri-modular tech that removes carbon on a large scale. “Biomass-based power plants and other industries which utilize biomass are sources of both CO2 as well as alkaline emissions (calcium oxide and magnesium oxide),” one of the team members, Srinath Iyer said.
He further went on to explain that these emissions can be captured by using different solutes or solvents that when carbon dioxide-rich solvent react with alkaline waste, it generates mineral carbonates while simultaneously regenerating a solvent which is IAMR (integrated CO2 absorption-mineralisation and regeneration of absorbent).
The IAMR method works effectively at reducing energy consumption and is cost-effective. Arnab Dutta, department chemistry & (IDPCS), also one of the team’s mentors, said that they have not only tried to capture carbon dioxide but have also turned it into another commercially viable chemical, which will benefit them financially.
The winning team has plans to utilize the grant to compete in subsequent rounds of XPRIZE or they might use the money to develop key supporting technologies that will better their tri-modular tech.
They are still celebrating their win to decide upon a final plan.
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