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Monash University carbon capture team wins at XPRIZE Competition


A Monash University Carbon Capture and Conversion team (MC³) of students has won one of 16 prizes worth over $340,000 in the international XPRIZE Carbon Removal Competition, launched earlier this year by Elon Musk and the XPRIZE Foundation. 

The Monash University team’s winning XPRIZE proposal consisted of novel, biologically based carbon capture and conversion technologies, using artificial forestry and microalgae cultures as carbon capture methods. The biomass that is produced will be transformed into cross-laminated timber (for the construction of sustainable buildings) and biochar (soil amendment) for durable sequestration. 

MC³ CEO and fourth year Bachelor of Engineering and Commerce student, Emily Qiao, said the team’s key focus was on the capture of CO2 via bio-sequestration.

“We submitted a BioTechnology proposal that consisted of biologically-assisted carbon capture and conversion methods, which focused on the capture of CO2 from the ocean and air via artificial forestry and microalgae cultures in novel designed floating photobioreactors,” Qiao said.

“The biomass produced from these carbon farms will then be utilised downstream, powered by bioenergy, in their transformation into cross-laminated timber, for sustainable buildings, and biochar, a charcoal that can be used for soil amendment.”

Assistant minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Tim Wilson, congratulated the team on winning this prize.  

“This is a fantastic recognition of a team of Australian university students competing on the world stage,” Wilson said. 

“It is a very worthwhile project that works towards technology that could be part of the solution to offset emissions and reduce the risks of climate change. The project aligns well with the government’s Technology Investment Roadmap towards using low-emissions technologies, and the IPCC’s and IEA’s pathways to net zero by 2050.” 

This undergraduate-led student design team drew Monash University students from across the Engineering, Science, Business, Humanities disciplines and from its Malaysia campus.   

The idea for the proposal arose at a session organised by the Woodside-Monash Energy Partnership, and was developed by a Monash Industry Team Initiative. 

Director of the Woodside Monash Energy Partnership, Professor Paul Webley, said he was incredibly proud to have been part of the foundation of setting up MC³ and mentoring the team.

“It’s incredible to see this student team’s work receive international support and recognition from the likes of Elon Musk and XPRIZE,” Webley said.

“For a relatively new student team to achieve this milestone just as they begin their journey to develop sustainable carbon capture technologies, is an astounding feat.”

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