Due to a bold goal to know more about the earth’s crust than anyone else, a pioneering energy company known as Quaise has garnered a lot of attention since its launch in 2020.
The company has already closed its first round of venture capital funding, raising an impressive US$63 million, which could open up geothermal energy to more of the world’s population.
Traditional drilling methods will be used in conjunction with a huge megawatt-powered flashlight inspired by nuclear fusion technology in the company’s plan to get closer to the Earth’s core.
(Photo: FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP via Getty Images)
Efforts to tap into the massive heat reservoir
In the age of renewable energy, geothermal energy has been mostly overlooked. Despite the growing dominance of solar and wind power in the green energy industry, efforts to tap into the massive reservoir of heat beneath human feet consistently lag behind, according to Science Alert.
It’s not hard to see why this happened. Despite the fact that geothermal energy can be an excellent source of clean, continuous and endless energy, there are only a few places where hot rocks suitable for mining can be found nearby.
Quaise hopes to remedy this situation by creating a method to measure the depth of baked holes in the crust. However, scientists have only reached 12.3 kilometers below the planet’s surface with their current best efforts. Despite their limitations, the Kola Superdeep Borehole and others like it are impressive feats of engineering.
The next step for scientists would be to find a way to crush the rock that has been compressed from a distance of a mile above and then bring it back to the surface.
It is also necessary that the digging tools can still crush the rock at temperatures above 180°C (356 degrees Fahrenheit). Innovative thinking would also be required to rotate the drills over such a long distance.
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How the researchers plan to dig the hole
Nuclear fusion research at the MIT Plasma Science and Fusion Center led to Quaise’s solution: millimeter-long pulses of electromagnetic radiation that fuse atoms together. Electrons are shaken at high speed inside strong magnetic fields by devices called gyrotrons, which efficiently produce continuous beams of electromagnetic radiation.
If Quaise is able to connect his multi-megawatt gyrotron to modern cutting equipment, he expects to be able to cut through the hardest, hottest rock in just a few months.
To generate energy at these depths, the surrounding rock can reach temperatures of over 500 degrees Celsius, which is enough to turn any liquid water pumped from the surface into an ideal supercritical fluid, according to Express.
Quaise expects to have field-deployable devices delivering proof-of-concept operations within the next two years using its seed and investment capital. A working electrical system could be in place by 2026 if all goes as planned. From 2028, the company intends to take over coal-fired power plants and convert them into steam power plants.
Will the technology really work?
You can bet there will be a lot of questions about how and if this technology will work. Carlos Araque, CEO and co-founder of Quaise, was asked to answer a number of questions from Loz Blain of New Atlas.
Even without this technology, geothermal reservoirs on land could provide enough energy to power about 17% of the world’s population. Nearly 40 countries could currently only rely on geothermal energy.
Despite this, less than half a percent of the world’s energy comes from the heat beneath our feet. Geothermal energy must grow at a rate of about 13% per year in order to reach the goal of net zero emissions by 2050. It is currently only a fraction of what it could be.
Scientists have plenty of room for improvement, even if they can’t find a way to increase its reach. The extent to which companies like Quaise can rekindle interest in this underdog is still up for debate.
There is no doubt, however, that the window of opportunity to cut emissions and set a lower global warming target is rapidly closing. Researchers have hit rock bottom, so maybe it’s time to dig a little deeper and look for new solutions.
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