Oct 24 2016 : The Times of India (Bangalore)
A Bengaluru team is the sole representative from India to make it to the semifinals of a $20-million global challenge to convert carbon dioxide emissions from natural gas and power plants into usable products.
Breathe, the Indian team participating in the NRG Cosia Carbon XPRIZE, plans to convert waste from a coalfuelled power plant into usable methanol. In all, 27 teams from around the world have been shortlisted. The team is led by Dr Sebastian Peter from Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR). The other two members are Professor Umesh Waghmare from the institute and Rakshith Raghavan Belur, 30, an engineer with Airbus Group India.
The competition, launched in September 2015, aims to address global carbon dioxide emissions, which lead to climate change, by incentivising innovative solutions to convert the emissions from liabilities into assets. It was Belur’s idea to participate after he learnt about the competition. His first choice was to go to JNCASR, from where he had obtained his PhD. A former professor advised him to meet Waghmare, who introduced him to Peter, who was working in the field.“Both were kicked about the competition and we decided to team up and enter,“ said Belur.
The competition has two tracks -one focused on testing technologies at a coal power plant and the other at a natural gas power plant. Each track will operate as a separate competition on the same timeline. The winner of each track will get $10 million.
Team Breathe is now faced with the challenge of proving their technology in a controlled environment -like laboratories -using a simulated power plant. They have to prove this by August 2017, the deadline for submissions, and it will be verified by a third party . They will be scored on how much carbon dioxide they convert to an asset and the net value of their products.
Upon completing the challenge and getting scores high enough to qualify for the finals, they will receive $2.5 million as a milestone prize using which, and other private funding, the team is expected to prove their products at real power plants.
Round three or the finals will begin in December 2017, when the teams must start with the assembly and testing facility. The operational phase of the last round will commence in January 2019 and the project should be completed by March 2020.
It’s commendable that a team from the city is the sole Indian representative in a global contest and has made it through the first round. It’s a long haul to the finals and the prize -they not only have to prove their mettle in a real-world scenario but also work on their idea for another four years. It takes enthusiasm and perseverance to make contributions that could change the world and make it a greener place, and other scientists could take inspiration from Team Breathe’s example.