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X Prize announces $2 million competition to measure ocean acidification

The Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health X Prize will award the developers of a cheap and effective pH sensor to measure ocean acidification levels.

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But ocean acidification is overall not a well-studied process. In large part, that’s due to the fact that present pH sensor technologies are too expensive or primitive to plumb the world’s highest latitudes, deep seas, and more coastal regions for details on just how and where the acidification is occurring.

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“Our oceans are currently in the midst of a silent crisis,” says the foundation, on its website. “To fully understand and adapt to the threat of ocean acidification, better pH sensing systems to monitor and collect ocean pH data are urgently needed.”

The competition is offering two prize purses, each $1 million, but teams are eligible to win both. The first purse is the $1,000,000 Accuracy award, split into a $750,000 First Place and a $250,000 Second Place prize, which will be awarded to “the teams produce the most accurate, stable and precise pH sensors under a variety of tests.”

The second purse, also split into first and second prize, is the Affordability award, given to “the teams that produce the least expensive, easy-to-use, accurate, stable, and precise pH sensors under a variety of tests.”

Registration for the competition will be open from January 1 to June 1. The full event will include lab trials in San Francisco, coastal trials in Seattle, and sea trials in Hawaii. It is expected to wrap up in May 2015.

X Prize has several other active prizes, including the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE to send a robot to the moon and the $10 million Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE aimed at engineering a mobile healthcare device.

In August, the foundation for the first time ever cancelled one of its competitions, the Archon Genomics XPRIZE. Initiated in 2006, the prize promised $10 million to the first team able to sequence 100 whole human genomes at a cost of $10,000 or less per genome. Just seven years later, after an unprecedented revolution in the speed and cost of genomic sequencing, and with private companies charging less than $5,000 per genome, the competition’s goal was moot.

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