MADISON, Wis.— A team of students and professors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison developed a technology they said can change the world someday.

The team took part in an international competition funded by Elon Musk and the Musk Foundation.

“Time is not on our side,” said PhD student Eri Amezcua. “We need to look for alternatives and what a better way than attacking the root of the problem and removing the damage we have done over the past 150 years or so.”

The goal of the XPRIZE for Carbon Removal Student Competition is to create a technology that can capture and permanently remove gigatons of carbon from the atmosphere.

The UW group built a machine that sucks air through a series of compartments.

“It actually operates like a horizontal cooling tower,” said Rob Anex, professor.

The direct air capture unit traps CO2.  What the team has done is, after trapping the CO2, they’ve created a machine that uses a carbonization mechanism to convert the gas into a solid.

“These technologies have been explored before, but I think the biggest issue is, like, what do you do with the CO2 afterwards,” said Amezcua.

The resulting material can be repurposed as a cement alternative or other things, permanently removing the CO2 from the sky.

“There it is permanently in that solid form. It’s sequestered, it’s geologically stable,” said Anex.

 “I think it’s brilliant,” Amezcua added.

On Earth Day, the group will learn if they’re one of fifteen teams to receive $1 million to keep their efforts going.

The team previously received $250,000 through the competition.

Amezcua said the money is helpful and competition is exciting, but he believes in the deeper impact this project can leave on the world if his team succeeds.

“Right now the coolest thing would be just to not see it in the lab like we see it here, but see it in an actual facility running and doing something for everybody,” Amezcua said.​