AltaRock Energy is testing new drilling in which rocks are destroyed by directed microwave radiation.
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A huge reserve of thermal energy is hidden in the bowels, 0.1% of which is enough for the needs of the Earth of mankind for 2 billion years. However, modern drilling methods do not cope well with tight rocks and high pressures, and some can even provoke an earthquake. These projects do not allow opening more than 3 km due to technical and financial problems..
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Earlier, a team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology proposed to abandon mechanical stress and melt minerals using millimeter waves. AltaRock Energy engineers took this idea as a basis and developed a new setup that uses a 1 MW gyrotron to generate microwave radiation with a field of 30 to 300 GHz…
The technology provides that a metal waveguide directs powerful radiation to the mineral. To prevent the destruction of the plasma and its ignition, a compressed gas is injected in parallel. During preliminary tests, the team successfully drilled holes in granite, basalt, sandstone and limestone.
AltaRock Energy recently received a $ 3.9 million advanced research grant from the US Department of Energy. Over the next three years the company uses to improve the system and use its effectiveness on slabs as thick as room. Drilling at real test sites should start by September 2022.
According to the developers, such a system will accelerate deep penetration at lower cost, compared to mechanical methods.
Another example of improving the efficiency of the use of technology is a new way ore processing, which allows extract rare earth metals from it in 20 minutes.
text: Ilya Bauer, photo: MIT