There is a $20 million prize at stake from the X Prize Foundation (an organization that incentivizes scientific advancement via financial competition, which it coins ‘prize philanthropy’). The challenge is to find ways to recycle carbon dioxide (CO2) - capturing it as it is emitted from smokestacks and turning it into useful products or new fuel – by 2020.
A recent New York Times article highlighted the efforts of several groups of researchers participating in this project. One of the difficulties the researchers have is figuring out how best to split CO2 molecules, which takes a significant amount of energy. One group of scientists is trying to take CO2 and water and turn them into fuel using sunlight – as plants do via photosynthesis. Other groups are working on developing synthetic crude oil with CO2 and water and a CO2 conversion device.