Quick question: Anyone want $7.5 million? XPrize has got it for you. All you have to do is save the world.
The organization, which turned 20 this year, regularly gives away enormous cash incentives to organizations, companies, and people who "change the world for the better." On Sept. 29 it announced a competition to see who can come up with the best solution for turning CO2 (which is basically industrial technology's poop) into something useful.
Right now, because of the immense amount of fossil fuels we burn, we are releasing CO2 into the air at a rate that will eventually kill us, if we don't figure out a way to stop it. We need some CO2 in the atmosphere, but we are currently drowning in it. Some governments and industries have worked to capture CO2 and store it underground, a smart but ultimately temporary solution. XPrize wants to take the next step.
XPrize is looking for "new, groundbreaking, transformational approaches to converting CO2 emissions into valuable products." Products like shoes, walls, and clothing; but also, perhaps a new fuel that doesn't take such a toll on our atmosphere.
There are two ways to win: use a coal power plant to create the new technology, or use a natural gas power plant. To stir up competition in both sectors, the XPrizers will give one prize to the best teams at each type of plant (sorry, Homer). But you have to be frugal. The winning team will not only turn air-crap into shoes, but use the least land, energy, and water possible, to do it. Winners from each track will receive $7.5 million, each, with runners-up taking home a nice $0.5 million consolation prize.
The registration deadline for the Carbon XPrize is March 2016, and winners will be announced in March 2020. That's the same year Popular Science predicts the U.S. military will have flying cars, FYI.
Past XPrizes have included competitions to clean up oil spills faster, build a better rocket (literally), and a genome sequencing prize that was canceled because by the time prize-announcing was coming around, genome sequencing was already pretty advanced. The forward-thinking nonprofit boasts a board of trustees that includes Elon Musk, James Cameron, and Ariana Huffington.
You can sign up for the Carbon XPrize here.