A team of four students and two professors from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT-B) has won a grant worth US$250,000 (approximately ₹1.85 crore) for developing a new tri-modular technology for low-cost, efficient capture of carbon dioxide (CO2) from point sources of emission and transforming them into salts.
The grant comes from XPRIZE Foundation in collaboration with the Elon Musk Foundation. The announcement was made on Thursday at the Sustainable Innovation Forum at COP-26 in Glasgow.
The team of students—Srinath Iyer (PhD student), Anwesha Banerjee (PhD student), Srushti Bhamare (BTech+MTech student) and Shubham Kumar (Junior Research fellow-Earth Science) are the only single institute team from India to have won this award.
XPRIZE and the Musk Foundation announced a grant of US$100 million (approximately ₹745 crore) in April this year for anyone who can come up with sustainable technology for carbon removal from the atmosphere, ocean, land, etc. Of this, US$5 million (approximately ₹37 crore) was a student award where participants have won under two categories.
“Our suggestion on capturing carbon dioxide at its source (in industries) and then turning it into carbonate salts with potential future usage to once again use it in a way that it does not enter the atmosphere as gaseous CO2, has won us this recognition,” said professor Vikram Vishal, department of earth sciences and Interdisciplinary Programme in Climate Studies (IDPCS) at the institute, and one of the two mentors part of this project.
This four-year global competition invited innovators and teams to create and demonstrate solutions that can pull carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere or oceans. To win the grand prize, teams had to demonstrate a working solution at a scale of at least 1000 tonnes removed per year and show a pathway to achieving a scale of gigatons per year in future, as validated by a third party.
“It is now an undisputed fact among the scientists that nearly 1.1 degree Celsius rise in Earth temperature has happened due to rise in CO2 levels post industrialisation. Some of the main sectors contributing to this have been power, petroleum, steel, fertilisers, and cement industries. Our idea can be incorporated in the existing industries to cap CO2 emission at its source,” said professor Arnab Dutta, department of chemistry & (IDPCS), and another mentor.
As part of their research, the team conceptualised the idea and conducted an internal assessment before submitting their project on paper with scientific justification supporting the concept.
“We are creating almost 40 gigatons of CO2 per year all over the world at present, and a little less than 7% of this is coming from India. Our suggestion is to not only capture this CO2 emitted by industries but also turn it into other commercially viable chemicals in industries ensuring a financial benefit to them while implementing this unique CO2 management program,” added Dutta.