Dutch startup Carbyon wins XPRIZE Milestone Award — $1M prize funded by Elon Musk and Musk Foundation



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Eindhoven-based Carbyon, a company that is developing equipment to filter CO2 from the air and store it underground, announced that it has been named a Milestone Award winner of the XPRIZE for Carbon Removal.

The submitted solutions were scientifically evaluated based on multiple criteria, such as the amount of CO2 removed, life cycle analysis of the removal process, energy efficiency, land footprint and storage capacity.

In February, 2021, Elon Musk announced to donate $100M to pursue new technologies for carbon capture – methods through which carbon dioxide can be actively extracted from the atmosphere as a means to help stave off climate change. According to XPRIZE, 15 teams from nine countries will get $1M Milestone awards in the next stage of the $100M XPRIZE Carbon Removal competition to innovate and scale solutions to fight climate change.

Incentive prize

The $1M incentive prize, funded by Elon Musk and the Musk Foundation, is part of the four-year global XPRIZE competition. The organisation invited innovators and teams from across the world to create solutions that can extract CO2 directly from the atmosphere or oceans and store it in an environmentally friendly way for good.

Hans de Neve, Founder and CEO of Carbyon, says, “For us, winning this award means being recognised. XPRIZE is like the world championship within our field. The fact that the jury ranks our concept among the fifteen best in the world means a lot to us. It is fantastic that three years after the start of our company we are already playing at this level.”

By winning this prize, Carbyon is in the line for an overall victory in the competition that XPRIZE organises with financier and tech billionaire Elon Musk. Like other winners of the prize, the Eindhoven startup has a chance to win $50M in 2025 as the overall winner for the implementation of their idea, while $30M will be distributed among the three runners-up.

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XPRIZE is a global future-positive movement delivering breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity. It claims to inspire and empower a global community of problem-solvers to positively impact the world by crowdsourcing solutions through large-scale competitions, tackling the world’s grandest challenges in exploration, environment, and human equity.

The aim of XPRIZE is to encourage and help scale efficient climate innovations to collectively reach the target of 10 gigatons per year of carbon removal by 2050. The ambition is to thus combat climate change and rebalance the Earth’s carbon balance.

Hans De Neve says, “Winning the prize strengthens our conviction and ambition. We believe that carbon removal can play a significant role in countering global warming. Our greatest wish is to find solutions to the climate crisis. It would be nice if our solution is the solution, but we would prefer that there is a solution at all. I hope that by winning this Milestone Award we inspire other startups and innovators to apply for the next round of the competition in 2024. The more people work on a solution the better.”

Scientific assessment

To win the competition, teams including Carbyon, had to show an accurately validated scale model of their solution and describe how it could be scaled up to one billion tons per year.

Hans de Neve says, “We demonstrated the operation of the key component of our Direct Air Capture (DAC) solution, demonstrating that we are well-positioned to successfully complete the next step of 1,000 tons per year by 2024. This demonstration has been verified by an independent third party, providing proof of the performance claims of the demonstrated technology in action.”

Carbyon develops the next generation of equipment to capture CO2 directly out of ambient air. The company claims that its breakthrough technology enables extreme energy efficiency and low manufacturing costs. This turns it into an economically viable carbon removal solution that can be scaled up worldwide in any location and with only a small footprint.

Carbyon’s technology

Founded in 2019 by Hans de Neve, the startup is a spin-off company from the research institute TNO. Its goal is to create affordable and scalable technology that can be used to stop climate change.

Carbyon’s solution first saw light at the Dutch research institute, TNO, in 2018. While working there, Hans De Neve investigated the use of thin-film technologies for novel solar PV materials. The technology of Carbyon builds upon decades of semiconductor technology developments.

The company uses a different approach compared to competing technologies: a fast swing process by means of a rotating drum that contains a material, modified to efficiently capture CO2 out of air. This fast swing process is the key to lowering the energy consumption as well as the machine cost, says the company.

A CO2 absorbing substance is used to modify fibre membrane material with a huge internal surface, leading to a highly beneficial CO2 capturing capacity. Modifying the membranes relies on advanced and proven techniques, leveraging production tools matured and scaled in the semiconductor industry. Carbyon builds upon the engineering experience of the world’s leading mechatronic companies, enabling low-cost mass manufacturing of our high-precision machines.

The thin membrane allows operating at very low-pressure drops, minimising energy consumption. The fast swing process allows for a very compact and reproducible machine design, thereby lowering the manufacturing cost.


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Vishal Singh

Vishal Singh is a News Reporter and Social Media Marketing Lead at Silicon Canals. He covers developments in the European startup ecosystem and oversees the publication's social media presence. Before joining Silicon Canals, Vishal gained experience at the Indian digital media outlet Inc42, contributing to its growth with insightful content. Despite being a college dropout, his passion for writing has driven his career in journalism.

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