The high-powered fiber laser system demonstrates high efficiency during field testing to make hard rock weaker, improve the cost of geothermal drilling, a laser beam process applied to achieve geothermal heat that is considered to be a clean and stable source of energy.
It should be noted that the drilling process deep into the earth’s crust leads to an increase of a drill bit temperature, herewith, in this case, the drill bit wears faster and its penetration rate reduces. Therefore, the cost of drilling without fiber laser application is extremely high, and this problem bothers investors to be involved with deep geothermal projects.
Nevertheless, a team of researchers from Germany has developed a fiber laser technology for laser beam drilling of hard rock that potentially allows both enhancing the penetration rate of geothermal drilling and saving the cutting edge of the bit by loosening and destroying the rock immediately before the drilling begins.
The operating principle of the system developed is based on the installation of ytterbium fiber laser (with an output power of up to 30 kilowatts) on a test rig. The fiber laser system has been already tested on such materials as sandstone, granite, and quartzite, all of which are regarded as hard rocks with a strength of more than 150 megapascals.
The researchers apply a water-jet to direct the laser beam to the rock face like optical fiber directs the laser beam. Such fiber laser technology secures from contamination and damage to the sensitive laser optics and simplifies the removal of the rock debris by the drilling device. Then the team employs “the laser system on the drilling rig in a specially developed drill string and tests the new tool under realistic conditions in field trials, which also proved to be a success.”
Additionally, the researchers plan to further increase the distribution of the laser beam power and add several sensors to the hybrid device to achieve feedback from the drilling process by the fiber laser system resulting in the opportunity to respond to changes in material along the drilling path.
Also, it is possible to adjust quickly the output power of the fiber laser making it particularly helpful in drilling processes. The thing is that such a drilling system based on fiber laser technology allows decreasing the cost of deep geothermal drilling in the future and expand the application of geothermal energy as an inexhaustible source of energy replacing other renewable sources, for example, sunlight, wind, and water.
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