Laser drills could make geothermal energy affordable


Geothermal energy could change the mathematics of the renewable energy world, provided researchers figure out a way to reduce drilling cost and time. Cost of drilling has been the major roadblock to the expansion of geothermal energy. Mechanical drills do well in grinding through soft rocks like sandstone, but the reverse happens when going through hard crystalline rocks such as basalt and granite, which mostly hide the best geothermal reserves.

Now Foro Energy, a Colorado-based startup, is claiming to have solved the riddle with the help of highly powerful lasers. Using nearly weapons-grade fiber optic laser, the team believes that they can crumple the top layers of rock by heating it so fast that thermal fracturing occurs. Once that happens, the task can be made less daunting for the conventional drill.

The laser can make things ten times more economical by simply reducing the time it takes to get to the geothermal reserves. There are still a lot of pending questions related to the effectiveness of the laser drill in real-world environment with water and rock chips flying all over the place.

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