World’s richest human Elon Musk has announced a $100 million reward for “best carbon capture technology.” The Tesla Inc CEO and innovator entrepreneur Musk took to Twitter on Thursday putting a $100 million prize towards the development of the “best” technology to capture carbon dioxide emission. 

Elon Musk, who also heads the Space Exploration Technologies Corp. or SpaceX, tweeted that he will share the details of the prize next week.   

This is not the first time the environmentally-conscious entrepreneur spoke about carbon capture. In 2017, Musk said, “There isn’t some way to make an electric rocket. I wish there was. But in the long-term, you can use solar power to extract CO₂ from the atmosphere, combine it with water, and produce fuel and oxygen for the rocket.” 

He brought up the idea again in 2019 when he responded to a question on Twitter about using carbon capture to make rocket fuel, saying “rocket flights will be zero net carbon long-term.”  

What is Carbon Capture?

Carbon capture is a mixed bag of technologies that aims to collect excess carbon dioxide so that it doesn’t pollute the atmosphere and contribute to the biggest environmental issue humans have faced: global warming. 

The carbon dioxide that is captured from factories, powerplants eventually block heat from escaping the earth’s atmosphere and contribute to global warming. Since the advent of the Industrial Revolution, human activity has been the source of increased carbon dioxide. According to NASA, Carbon dioxide has increased by 47% since the industrial revolution and is “the most important long-lived ‘forcing’ of climate change”.  

Carbon capture in a nutshell is the process of capturing carbon dioxide through two main processes: post-combustion and pre-combustion. 

The post-combustion process removes CO2 from gases that are released from the burning of fossil fuels. The pre-combustion process is implemented before the burning of fossil fuels. Post-combustion technology involves converting the fuel into a mixture of Hydrogen and CO2. This tech produces steam by burning fossil fuels with almost pure oxygen.  

Carbon capture is a three-step process that involves: capturing carbon dioxide, transporting the captured CO2, and then store it deep underground. 

Carbon capture’s impact on climate change

A well-implemented carbon capture technology can help in the significant reduction of emissions from large industrial installations that are the source of pollutants. If carbon capture is implemented with bioenergy technologies for power generation, it will lead to the generation of ‘negative emission’ which removes excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. 

Other Incentive-based competitions in carbon capture

Elon Musk isn’t the first innovator billionaire to introduce a million-dollar carbon capture reward. 

In 2007, Virgin Group founder, billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson launched his own carbon capture reward campaign by the name Virgin Earth Challenge. In this challenge, Branson offered a $25 million award for commercially viable technology that can remove excess CO2 for at least 10 years. Unfortunately, not a single team ended up meeting the criteria to be placed in the finals.  

XPRIZE has been another leading competition that promises a sum of $20 million dollars for solving the world’s biggest environmental problems The winner of the competition is slated to be announced in 2021.  

Also read: Elon Musk – A visionary, An Entrepreneur