Elon Musk donating $330k to Aussie carbon removal project

Carbon pollution

Elon Musk is donating $330k (US$250k) to a University of Sydney team developing technology that makes use of renewable energy to permanently remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The donation, which will come from Musk’s philanthropic research foundation, will support the Sydney Sustainable Carbon project run by eight University of Sydney students and overseen by a professor. It is one of 23 student-led projects awarded a prize from 195 applicants worldwide, announced at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. 

The Sydney Sustainable Carbon project utilises a renewable solar-powered process called Direct Air Capture (DAC), and is able to capture carbon dioxide using Metal-Organic Framework (MOF) materials. Once removed from the atmosphere, the carbon dioxide could potentially be used to support sustainable horticulture and agriculture. 

Each DAC unit is capable of capturing two tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, while the University of Sydney team is developing and synthesising the MOF materials. DAC units could be mass-manufactured and theoretically deployed in their millions.

“Removing CO2 from the atmosphere is one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time, and Australia is uniquely positioned to deliver the solution,” said Sydney University Professor Deanna D’Alessandro, who is overseeing the project. 

“We hope the recognition brought about by this award will encourage the Australian Government to support Negative Emissions Technology in the near future.”

The project is collaborating with Australian renewable startup Southern Green Gas, as well as companies Corporate Carbon and Swisse Re, and has no relation to any carbon capture & storage or fossil fuel companies. 

The team will use the awarded funds to enhance their prototype unit, and if successful the project could ultimately attract a $50 million grant from the Musk Foundation. 

Removing carbon from the atmosphere is an important step in increasing Australia’s performance in emissions on the world stage, where the country currently trails most developed nations. 

While the federal government has recently announced plans to increase the uptake of electric vehicles and renewable energy around the country, Australia has been criticised for falling behind on the emissions front.

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