CERT team advances to finals of Carbon XPRIZE

U of T Engineering’s CERT team, led by Alex Ip (ECE PhD 1T5, second from left) is one of just five teams from academia and industry to advance to the finals of the international NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE competition, where they hope to bring home the $7.5-million grand prize for their carbon-capture and conversion technology.

April 9, 2018 – The U of T Engineering-led team working to capture greenhouse gas and recycle it into useful chemicals has advanced to the finals of the international NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE. The competition presents this challenge: capture carbon emissions from power plants and efficiently convert them into valuable chemical products.

Finalists were revealed at Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s Future of Energy Summit in New York City.

CERT, a team of two dozen multidisciplinary researchers working with Professors Ted Sargent (ECE) and David Sinton (MIE), is one of just five teams around the world to make it into the third and final round in the natural gas plant stream. Thirty-eight teams from five countries, and from both industry and academia, entered the competition — of the field of 27 that qualified for Round 2, the contenders have now been reduced to five. An additional five finalist teams will work to capture and convert emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Currently, power generation produces more than 32 gigatonnes of climate-warming carbon dioxide (CO2) annually — that’s 32,000,000,000 tonnes. Renewable forms of energy, such as solar and wind, hold promise to help reduce that number, and have decreased in price and increased in capacity in recent years. By 2022 global renewable electricity generation is expected to grow by another one-third to over 8,000 terrawatts per hour.

CERT capitalizes on this trend by using green energy to capture and convert CO2 to useful chemical compounds.

“The Carbon XPRIZE aims to catalyze the development of practical solutions to one of the most urgent challenges of our time,” says Sargent. “Our team thanks its supporters in helping us pursue and meet a truly ambitious goal: upgrade waste CO2 into a valuable product.”

CERT leveraged the team’s expertise in electrocatalysis to develop nanoparticle-based catalysts that use clean electricity to recycle CO2 into valuable carbon-based products. The team demonstrated they could convert kilograms of CO2 into carbon monoxide, a widely utilized industrial chemical.

“Any important engineering problem brings unexpected challenges and demands creative solutions,” says Sinton. “The Carbon XPRIZE competition is timely and important because it rewards the combination of technological innovation and scaling at the heart of the CO2challenge.  We knew we had an amazing team, but it’s still incredibly rewarding to look back on the truly stunning achievements of U of T researchers.”

A team of XPRIZE judges visited Toronto in December 2017 to evaluate CERT’s capabilities and potential for Round 3. CERT spent three days with the XPRIZE team at the XEROX Research Centre of Canada in Mississauga, where the judges evaluated their technology and data. They conducted their Round 2 research with $833,333 through a TargetGHG Stream 3 grant, supported by Ontario’s $74 million Green Investment Fund, and administered by Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE). The work was also conducted in partnership with Quebec-based company CO2 Solutions Inc., which provided the team with carbon capture technology.

“Everyone at OCE is incredibly proud to see CERT advance in the prestigious international NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE competition,” says Dr. Tom Corr, President and CEO of OCE. “Having Ontario-based research and talent in greenhouse gas reduction being recognized at a global level is inspiring, and demonstrates how programs like TargetGHG funded by the government are helping Ontario lead the fight against climate change and transition to a low carbon economy.”

“Ontario congratulates the CERT team as they advance to the finals of the international Carbon XPRIZE,” say Reza Moridi, Minister of Research, Innovation and Science. “This impressive achievement is a testament to Ontario’s cleantech talent and research excellence.  This province is proud to have supported CERT’s efforts as we work together to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and create jobs in the cleantech sector.”

Read the article on U of T Engineering News.

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