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A carbon capture company established less than a year ago by two Oxford students has been announced as one of 23 winners of the XPRIZE student competition.

The CyanoCapture technology being developed in the lab. © CyanoCapture

The award program, which is part of the $100 Million XPRIZE for Carbon Removal supported by the Musk Foundation, was launched, in part, to fund early stage concepts from the next generation of carbon removal innovators. Winning student teams can use funds to compete in subsequent rounds of XPRIZE Carbon Removal or to develop key supporting technologies which will enable carbon dioxide removal.

CyanoCapture was founded in January 2021 by Samir Chitnavis, an MBiol student in the Poole lab at the Department of Plant Sciences, and David Kim, a postgraduate student in Medicine. The company aims to provide affordable, long term carbon capture on an industrial scale by harnessing genetically modified cyanobacteria.

David Kim, CEO of CyanoCapture, said: “My co-founders worked with me during a pandemic to turn an unlikely idea that I had, into a real tangible technology. It is entirely owed to their faith in this idea, and desire to create a better tomorrow, that this XPRIZE Award was possible.

“In my view, it is only when global markets are restructured to truly account for its negative externalities, that we will accelerate progress towards Net Zero. And this is exactly what we are beginning to see today as more countries legislate carbon tax and cap-and-trade systems. However, no one is providing a way to capture CO2 at the scale that is required. That is the gap we are addressing.”

CyanoCapture believes it is on track to be the first company to bring the cost of carbon capture below the €50 per tonne mark. Its carbon capture technology will cost industries such as power stations and cement factories less to capture each tonne of CO2 than the cost which would otherwise be paid in emission tax. The company estimates that a 750m x 600m installation will be able to capture over 100,000 tonnes of CO2 each year, saving up to 5.2 million Euros in tax.

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