What better way to spend a strict lockdown in Victoria, Australia, and Sunway, Malaysia, than to bid for Elon Musk’s $100M XPRIZE to decarbonise. The team of researchers from Monash University (pictured above) has received a $250,000 award from the Musk Foundation to continue their work on decarbonization. They are the only Australian and Malaysian team to win an award. Nearly 200 teams affiliated with the university submitted proposals.
“The entire process of our proposal from concept to submission was completed throughout the tough shutdown! The Monash Carbon Capture and Conversion (MC³) team told me that most of the team had never met in person.” This made me incredibly proud of our engineering students, having achieved this feat despite The harsh conditions we faced. The fun fact behind the scenes was that we needed a lot of caffeine to keep ourselves awake in order to attend XPRIZE’s live webinar that takes place at 10AM PST, making it 3AM EST here in Victoria, Australia. But it is worth it in the end! “
“We hope to get people excited about this award and the amazing work we can achieve with such support,” Evangeline Leung, a fourth-year student in chemical engineering and biomedical sciences at Monash University and chief technical officer on the project, told me. “It is an honor to be able to lead the team, along with Kavindya Liyanage and Pranav Dayal, our biotech team managers, in delivering this global proposal. Now we move on to the next stage where we make our proposal a reality by having physical demonstrations.”
I continued explaining the project (I asked her to keep the KISS explanation). “The award-winning biotechnology carbon dioxide removal solution proposed the use of biological sequestration, which consists of bio-assisted carbon capture and conversion methods that focus on capturing carbon dioxide from the ocean and air. We will achieve this by growing artificial forests and microalgae in new design floating photobioreactors. The biomass produced from these carbon farms will then be used downstream to convert it into laminated wood, for sustainable buildings, and biochar, a charcoal that can be used to amend soil. Carbon utilization processes will be powered by BECCS (Bioenergy by Carbon Capture and Storage), which increases the carbon passivity of our solution. Our bid was successful in winning a $250,000 XPRIZE Student Prize.
“Other areas our team is working on include carbon capture via direct air capture (DAC), carbon utilization via polymer electrochemical synthesis, and carbon blockchain validation technology.
“Our DAC captures a significant amount of CO2 through an economical and energy efficient process that is geologically sequestered while a fraction of the CO2 is used for polymer synthesis. The polymer manufacturing process will store the CO2 captured by DAC for 100 years. At least by converting it to high-density polyethylene with a long life and recyclability.
“The process of applying for such a large scholarship has been a new experience for many of the team members, as we are mostly undergraduate students. Although XPRIZE ranks the student team as a team with at least 50% of students currently enrolled, we are proud that our team He has 100% student representation.
“Adherence to the strict word limit was certainly one of the most difficult parts of making this proposal. We were eager to share anything and everything we had ready to make our case. XPRIZE has made itself accessible to everyone through many platforms, giving us the opportunity to answer our queries.” This has been a great experience for all of us.”
For those who want to dig deeper:
All photos provided by Monash University
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