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.