MIT wants to dig the deepest hole in the world to produce energy

New drilling technologies can open new doors to geothermal energy and disrupt the entire energy industry.

Geothermal energy is already one of the technologies that makes it possible to supply large amounts of energy without burning the smallest fossil resource, and without the slightest emission of greenhouse gases. But its applications are unfortunately limited to very specific geographical areas at the moment.

Specialists believe that this technology can still make significant progress, but it involves digging very deep geothermal wells, far beyond the few dozen meters of current canals. But from a certain depth becomes the hardness of the rock and the temperature difficult to tolerate for exercises.

Therefore, to take geothermal energy to the next level, it is necessary find an effective way to pierce the crust, or even the mantle of the earth much deeper. The technical challenge is huge, but the benefits are worth it; with this approach it would be possible to harness a phenomenal amount of geothermal energy that could revolutionize the entire energy industry.

A high-tech microwave to evaporate the rock

And this is where it comes in Quay, a satellite company from the prestigious MIT. Based on the work of the engineer Paul Woskovshe developed a concept based on one gyrotron. It is a device already used in many industrial sectors for district heating of materials, especially in the case of nuclear fusion experiments.

Very vulgar, it works a bit like a big laser; The goal is to focus an electromagnetic wave to concentrate all its power in a small space. The difference is that the gyrotron operates at a different frequency range; it emits microwaves instead of visible light.

The idea is very simple on paper: It consists of using very powerful gyrotrons to heat the rock until it is sprayed on site. This technique could make it possible to dig extremely deep geothermal wells – the company even talks about deepest holes ever drilled!

At the moment, it’s still just a concept. Although the technology on which it is based already seems mature, it is a different story to implement it under real conditions. And that’s exactly what Quaise will try to do with a grant from the US Department of Energy.

By the end of the year, it will test its first prototype. The goal will be to dig a hole ten times deeper »Than Woskov during his solo work (this figure has not been disclosed). She will then move on to another well, this time 100 times deeper than the original.

This step is not expected until 2024, as it will require major modeling efforts. But if Quaise passes this trajectory, then the company will have all the weapons in hand to approach the last piece.

Ultimately, the company wants to reinvest in decommissioned power plants. It will thus be able to reuse the existing infrastructure; enough to give these buildings a new life. At this point, it would be sufficient to convert the rest of the equipment and then dig down to a depth of about 20 km – where the temperature systematically reaches several hundred degrees.

A small but really promising concept

It would then be possible to do jump the geographical boundaries of geothermal energy. ” We believe that by drilling down to 20 km we will be able to access these extreme temperatures from 90% of the planet Is stated in the press release from MIT.

And it’s not just about accessibility. Having access to such temperatures at all times would make it possible to produce one very large amount of energy which could even compete with traditional power plants.

At these temperatures, we produce steam with a temperature very close to or even higher than that found in coal or gas-fired power plants. “, Explains the press release.

According to the researchers, this is also a sustainable approach. When ripe, it can replace almost all coal globally and meet human energy needs for “ millions of years “.

Is this time the right one?

Of course, we are still a long way from that. So far, the drilling technology itself is not even fully developed. Once it is, it will also be necessary to determine its environmental impact. It will then be necessary to develop new equipment to exploit these unusually deep wells, which will be anything but simple.

After all, MIT is optimistic and believes that the first results can come very quickly. The technological foundation is already well in place and the only thing left is to integrate everything into a single efficient and reliable system. ” If we can solve these technical problems, I think we will have a functioning plant within five or six years. Says the father of the concept.

This makes this technology particularly interesting in the current context. “ We have made incredible progress in renewable energy in recent years, but in general we are still not moving fast enough to achieve the goals that will limit the impact of global warming. explain the researchers. The advent of such technology would certainly be a major step in this direction.

It should be, though take all these promises with a pinch of salt. As always when an institution unveils a source of revolutionary energy. It is no coincidence that Woskov’s work has stood still for a long time; the technical challenge is huge. But this approach has such great potential that it deserves to be explored in any case. We therefore give you an agreement in a few years to see if this research has gone from idea to reality.

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