Inspired by designs created by his father decades ago, Jared Potter is building an arsenal of ultra-powerful flame-jet drills. As seen in the NatGeo video above, one prototype directs a jet of burning hydrogen at 3200°F against a slab of solid granite. The rock doesn't melt, as one might expect under such a blast of heat; instead, the high temperature causes the rock to fracture as it expands along existing micro-cracks in the material. After a short exposure to the flame-jet drill, a gaping, perfectly smooth borehole has been created in the granite.For deeper drilling jobs, in wet, high-pressure conditions where traditional bits jam and break, Potter has another prototype. This one burns at a toasty 7200°F, but the flame is used indirectly, to superheat a jet of water, which in turn bores through the rock and simultaneously flushes the fragments out of the borehole.
Technovelgy.com points out that the Romulans use a similar device in the recent Star Trek film. Their purpose is to destroy a planet, but Potter intends his flame-jet drills to facilitate the creation of wells for geothermal power.
Able to drill up to 100 feet in an hour, without needing its bit replaced, the flame-jet drill could indeed revolutionize the future of power, bringing geothermal into the limelight as a readily available primary source of energy, rather than a rather unwieldy and expensive alternative green option.
Just don't mix up your flame drill with your cool plasma toothbrush fumbling in the dark.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.