Design

Oil-spill cleanup tech wins million-dollar X Challenge

First announced at TEDxOilSpill last spring, during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X Challenge was a $1.4 million competition to goose development of new technology to clean oil off the surface of seawater.

This week, the X Foundation announced a winner and runner-up. As reported in National Geographic:

Team Elastec, an Illinois-based veteran company in the oil spill cleanup business, developed giant grooved discs that skimmed oil more than three times better than the industry standard to capture the $1 million top prize.

Second prize of $300,000 went to Norway’s Team Nofi, which deployed V-shaped flexible boom to capture 2,712 gallons (10,266 liters) per minute and an efficiency of 83 percent. None of the other teams achieved the competition minimum recovery rate, so the $100,000 third prize was not awarded, and will be returned to the X PRIZE Foundation for further contests focused on marine and ocean environmental issues.

As we watched TEDxOilSpill, knowing that a few hundred miles away, millions of gallons of spilled oil were being cleaned up with straw and fire, it was thrilling to think that better methods were in development than this:

Boom

As TEDxOilSpill organizer Nate Mook tells the TED Blog: “This is the perfect example of Ideas Worth Spreading turning into tangible action that can change the world. With oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, it started as an idea to incentivize the development of new, innovative technologies to combat oil spills. Within weeks, the Oil Cleanup X Challenge was announced at TEDxOilSpill. We are excited to see the year-long competition come to a close with the winner taking home $1 million and runner-up $300,000. The new innovations far exceed the current standard of oil cleanup technology and will surely change the industry, and environment, for the better.”

Photo: James Duncan Davidson / TEDxOilSpill Expedition

For another intriguing cleanup technology, read this Motherboard.tv report on TED Fellow Cesar Harada and his startup, Protei >>