XPRIZE Launches Competition on Ocean Acidity

Since 1995, the X PRIZE Foundation has awarded prizes for competitions that encourage solving the world’s Grand Challenges. Its motto is "Making the Impossible Possible." 

The current competition focuses on improving measurements of ocean acidity – the $2 million Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE promises to improve our understanding of how carbon emissions are affecting ocean acidification, with breakthrough sensors that can help us begin the process of healing our oceans.

The goal is to develop sensors that accurately and affordably test the pH of the world’s oceans.

While ocean acidification is well documented in a few temperate ocean waters, little is known in high latitudes, coastal areas and the deep sea, and most current pH sensor technologies are too costly, imprecise, or unstable to allow for sufficient knowledge on the state of ocean acidification.

"Just as we have sensors to monitor our body’s vital signs, we need a device to help determine the acidity of our oceans before we can determine the best solution to improve its health," says Paul Bunje, Senior Director of Oceans, XPRIZE. "To accomplish this, we hope to incent innovators around the world, across disciplines, to compete for this prize not only for the ecological benefits, but for the market potential worth far more than the prize purse itself."

Teams that participate in this 22-month competition can compete for one or both of the two $1,000,000 purses – one for accuracy and one for affordability. 

This is the second Wendy Schmidt XPRIZE. The first $1.6 million prize was the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup XCHALLENGE, which inspired next generation solutions for quickly cleaning up oil spills. The winning solution is four times faster than the industry’s best rate to date. 

Wendy Schmidt is President of the Schmidt Family Foundation, which supports development of clean energy and wiser use of natural resources. She founded The 11th Hour Project and Climate Central, an independent organization of leading scientists and journalists that research and report on the facts about climate change.

The idea behind XPRIZE is to stimulate investment in research and development, worth far more than the prize itself. The organization motivates and inspires brilliant innovators from all disciplines to leverage their intellectual and financial capital for the benefit of humanity.

XPRIZE conducts competitions in five categories: Learning; Exploration; Energy & Environment; Global Development; and Life Sciences.

On the Energy & Environment side, there have been competitions to develop a car that exceeds 100 miles per gallon, 

Active prizes include the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE, the $10 million Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE, and the $2.25 million Nokia Sensing XCHALLENGE.

Its next competitions in our field will reward teams for developing a way to truly recycle carbon, making it an asset rather than a liability; and for radical technology that makes water available to the 2.6 billion people that lack basic sanitation – from energy derived from organic waste. 

Ideas that have the potential to reduce the acidity of oceans are: a method that also removes carbon from the atmosphere and produces hydrogen and increasing oyster populations. 

Here is the Ocean Health XPRIZE website:

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