Elon Musk-funded carbon elimination competition rewards UBC spin-offs with $2 million


Two UBC spin-offs have each won a $1 million prize in the XPRIZE carbon removal technology competition funded by Elon Musk and the Musk Foundation.

In a Friday press release, UBC said Carbin Minerals will use the funding to “remove thousands of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere” at a mine site by 2024, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by greenhouse.

“Carbon dioxide is removed from the air naturally by weathering, where certain rocks absorb greenhouse gas and turn it into a mineral,” said Bethany Ladd, co-founder of Carbin Minerals and researcher at UBC, in the press release.

“The result is carbon stored in solid form as carbonate rock. Our lab has developed research to accelerate this mineralization process from thousands of years to weeks or even days.”

Ladd added that by partnering with the mines, they can turn mine tailings – huge piles of pulverized rock – into what they call “giant carbon sinks”.

“The science is based on natural processes; the key is finding how to accelerate and optimize carbon uptake in tailings so that it’s economically feasible at scale,” Ladd said.

Ladd said the prize money will help the team deploy their carbon removal technology to mine sites around the world, while also implementing new technology they are working on.

“The XPRIZE money will help us set up our first pilot project, hire a team, buy equipment and start fulfilling carbon-off contracts,” Ladd said.

Carbin Minerals is also up for the grand prize, worth $50 million.

The company said its long-term goal is to remove as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as possible.

“There is a huge amount of potential to remove the carbon that lies dormant in mining waste around the world, and this will only increase as global demand for critical metals increases to ensure the transition to clean energy,” Ladd said.

“We are working to unlock this potential, so that we can tangibly reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere and truly turn the dial on climate change.”

Carbin Minerals said it was working with another company to develop robots similar to Roombas, but the size of a car, that can work on rock slurry.

“Some of the tailings are made up of fine rocks, almost sand, which can be deposited as rock mud and water. This mud is like quicksand, so it is dangerous for humans, but robots could work on it safely to implement our carbon sink process.”

Takachar, another UBC spin-off, won the student version of the XPRIZE last year and will receive an additional $1 million this year for its trash-burning machine designed to reduce carbon emissions and improve the quality of the air.


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