Innovation That Matters

Quaise's ultra-deep drilling could unlock the vast amount of energy stored beneath our feet | Photo source Quaise

New drilling technology makes ultra-deep geothermal energy possible

Agriculture & Energy

The concentrated power could directly replace coal in existing power plants

Spotted: Until recently, projects attempting to access ultra-deep geothermal energy have been defeated by mechanical failures. While drilling, teams encountered much higher temperatures earlier than expected, thwarting traditional materials and processes that cannot cope with such levels of heat. Lasers, too, were found to be incapable of drilling down far enough. More recent research has discovered that energy beams of at least one megawatt of power may be the key to transforming the renewable energy industries.

Ultra-deep drilling rigs take up far less space than wind turbines and solar panels, and the efficiency of the heat from the interior of the Earth could power the entire world’s energy needs for millions of years. Hoping to transform the technology into a new form of sustainable, accessible power is MIT-linked Quaise Energy. Researchers from the university formed the company to focus on advancing the use of geothermal energy.

Using gyrotron-powered millimetre-wave directed energy drilling, combined with argon gas as a cleaner and coolant, the team expects to be able to reach depths of 20 kilometres in 10 days. The company is currently building deployable machines which could be ready for full-scale field testing by 2024. Beyond this, the goal is to produce a 100-megawatt production plant by 2026.

What could completely remodel the existing renewables market is the ability of the geothermal production processes to be installed in existing power plants as a direct replacement to coal. Not only could current power plants be retrofitted for complete sustainability, new locations could be set up at a scale appropriate for the surrounding communities. The heat is below everyone’s feet, so deployment of the technology could be exceptionally flexible.

Geothermal power is being considered for use in an array of new projects, with Springwise spotting the energy being used to power urban developments in Chicago and South Africa.  

Written by: Keely Khoury



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