According to a 2006 MIT-led study, geothermal energy could supply 100 gigawatts of electricity to the U.S. by 2050, if new drilling and rock-fracturing technologies are discovered, to lower the development costs involved.
In order to do this, scientists from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, WA, announce they developed a new type of heat extracting liquid that could absorb much better the heat coming from the hot water in the geothermal wells.
Pete McGrail, one of the researchers, says the the liquid can boost the rate of heat exchange by 20 to 30%. The liquid if made of engineered nanomaterials made up of metals linked by organic molecules. Adding the nanomaterials mentioned above to a fluid such as hexane or pentane significantly increased the heat-exchanging properties of the liquid.
“The hope here is that by improving the efficiency as much as we think we can, a project can become economic at much shallower depths,” says McGrail. “You’d be able to deploy in what would now be considered marginal or uneconomic areas.”
“Hopefully we’ll get a test loop system together by the end of the year. We’ll put together a complete working unit with heat exchanger, compressor, pumps, and a turbine system so we can see the whole process working,” he also says.