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Informational Only

This challenge is no longer accepting new submissions.

CO2 Conversion Challenge Phase 2

Get Out of Your Element

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Type of Challenge: Scientific
Partner Agencies | Federal: NASA Centennial Challenges Program and NASA Ames Research Center
Partner Agencies | Non-federal: Common Pool
Submission Start: 9/17/2019 06:00 PM ET
Submission End: 11/30/2020 06:00 PM ET


The Challenge seeks to develop novel synthesis technologies that use carbon dioxide (CO2) as the sole carbon source to generate molecules that can be used to manufacture a variety of products, including substrates for use in microbial bioreactors. Because CO2 is readily abundant within the Martian atmosphere, such technologies will translate into in-situ manufacturing of products to enable humans to live and thrive on the planet, and also be implemented on Earth by using both waste and atmospheric CO2 as a resource.

Competitors are required to build, demonstrate and produce a product from a system that manufactures simple sugars for microbial bioreactors from CO2 and hydrogen molecules, with the ultimate goal of producing glucose.

NASA is sponsoring the second phase of the CO2 Conversion Challenge with a total prize purse of up to $750,000. Phase 1, the Concept Phase, awarded a prize purse of $250,000 to five (5) teams. Phase 2, the Demonstration Phase, has a total prize purse of up to $750,000. The official rules for Phase 2 will be released prior to the opening of Phase 2.

Other important dates:

  • March 1-31, 2020: Optional Challenge Mid-Point Progress Updates Due
  • June 5, 2020: Application Deadline
  • September 2020: Winners Announced


Total Cash Prize Pool

Seven Hundred Fifty Thousand Dollars ($750,000 USD)

Prize Breakdown

Up to 3 winners will share a prize purse of up to $650,000

  • First place- $350,000
  • Second place- $200,000
  • Third place- $100,000

A total of$100,000 in Bonus Prizes will be available for up to 3 teams who demonstrate system effectiveness for future space mission application. Teams do not need to win one of the challenge prizes to be awarded a Bonus Prize. In the bonus round, the top score will receive $50,000 and the next two highest scores will receive $25,000.


Visit the official challenge site to read the complete rules.

Judging Criteria

Judging Panel

A judging panel will be composed of a hybrid team, both internal and external to NASA

Judging Criteria

To qualify to be judged, teams must provide a completed application package, submit a video of the system operating properly and have an interview by phone with a judge. The judge will determine is a team has sufficiently completed the required criteria and the judge will schedule a site visit with the team. The judging panel's evaluation of the submissions will be based on the following scoring criteria:

Product Quality Assessment (100 points): Each team must host a judge for an on-site visit. During this visit, a team must successfully demonstrate the operation of their system and produce enough sample within 7 hours to be analyzed and scored. The product will be collected and analyzed by an independent laboratory for the presence of D-enantiomers of targeted simple sugars. Teams will be assigned scores based on the presence of targeted compounds.

Challenge Targeted Compounds

Weighting Factor



Other 6-carbon sugars (D-hexoses)


5-carbon sugars (D-pentoses)


4-carbon sugars (D-tetroses)


3-carbon sugars (D-trioses)




How To Enter

All interested teams must register on the official challenge site by the given deadline in order to participate in the Challenge.