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X Challenge Offers $1.4 Mln for Oil Spill Cleanup Solutions

The X Prize Foundation is best known for fueling private industry space flight, with the Ansari X-Prize giving rise the the technology that’s building Virgin Galactic’s forthcoming orbital service, and partnering with Google to launch a $30 million competition for the first privately-funded team to get a robot on the moon. Now, the organization has launched a far more down-to-earth contest: the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X Challenge, which offers $1.4 million for the best oil spill cleanup solution submitted by next year.

“The devastating impact of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill will last for years and it is inevitable that future spills will occur—both from wells and from transport tankers,” said X Prize chair Peter H. Diamandis, in a statement. The Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X Challenge hopes to “find the most effective and environmentally-safe solutions for capturing oil from all spills at the spill site, thus limiting their impacts and protecting our oceans, shores, marshes, and, importantly, the health and well-being of the people and wildlife which live and thrive in these communities.”

Wendy Schmidt is personally funding the Oil Cleanup challenge; Schmidt is the wife of Google CEO Eric Schmidt, and is broadly involved in philanthropic efforts, particularly energy development and conservation of natural resources.

The challenge will run for a year, and aims to spur development and demonstration of quickly deployable, highly efficient means of recovering crude oil from the ocean surface. The competition will run in two phases; the first phrase runs through April 2011 and invites proposals, which will be evaluated by a panel of expert judges from academia and industry. The judges will select up to 10 teams to demonstrate their technology for cleaning up oil on the ocean surface in a head-to-head competition at the National Oil Spill Response Research & Renewable Energy Test Facility (OHSMETT) in New Jersey; the team with the best demonstrated recovery rate and efficiency will win $1 million; second place will win $300,000 and third place will win $100,000.

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