While interest in renewable energy sources has surged in recent decades, geothermal energy has largely been left out from the party.
The reason for this is that the implementation of geothermal plants is typically limited to those regions where natural heat sources occur at shallow depths of up to 400 feet below the Earth’s surface — within the practical reach of conventional drilling technology.
While physical drill bits may struggle at deeper depths, Dr Woskov believes that the emissions from a gyrotron could be used to vaporise a hole into the depths instead.
At present, Dr Woskov has only succeeded in creating small holes in his lab — but the team are hoping to create a path ten times deeper later this year thanks to access to a more powerful gyrotron.
Then they can look to increase their target depth by another factor of ten, at which point, they will need to prove that they can successfully flush out the rock vapour at such a depth — an accomplishment, the team said, that the US Department of Energy is interested in.
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