Elon Musk gives Sydney students $250,000 to work on eco-friendly project

If successful, the scheme could attract a $50 million grant from the Musk Foundation

The philanthropic research foundation of Tesla chief executive and co-founder Elon Musk awarded $250,000 to a University of Sydney team developing technology to permanently remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The billionaire’s funding decision was announced at the Sustainable Innovation Forum at the Cop26 climate change summit in Glasgow.

The project, Sydney Sustainable Carbon, uses renewable solar power and has no association with carbon capture and storage or fossil fuel companies, the university said on Thursday.

If successful, the University of Sydney’s project could ultimately attract a $50 million grant from the Musk Foundation, aimed at creating a new manufacturing sector and jobs for Australia, the university said.

The funding could help develop a novel Australian approach in environmental technology known as negative emissions technology. This involves the removal and permanent storage of carbon dioxide from the air, the university said. Once removed from the atmosphere, the carbon dioxide can be used to support sustainable agriculture and horticulture.

“Removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time and Australia is uniquely positioned to deliver the solution,” said Prof Deanna D’Alessandro from the University of Sydney Nano Institute and the School of Chemistry. “It has about 300 million hectares of non-arable land with high solar intensity.”

The university team is one of 23 student teams awarded a prize from 195 applicants worldwide.

Mr Musk, who had a net worth of $304.3 billion before selling $5bn of Tesla shares on Wednesday, said on Twitter this month that he would sell $6bn in Tesla stock to end world hunger, if the UN can provide evidence showing it could solve the crisis and how the money will be spent.

David Beasley, director of the UN’s World Food Programme, had challenged billionaires to end world hunger by giving only 0.36 per cent of their wealth in one-time donations. Mr Beasley said in a CNN interview on October 26 that only a small percentage of Mr Musk’s wealth could help solve world hunger.

Updated: November 11th 2021, 7:50 AM