It’s a drill that shoots frickin’ laser beams
by Michael Keller
And it was built by a company called Foro Energy with funding assistance from the Department of Energy’s advanced research projects agency, ARPA-E. The agency says the innovation makes drilling for petroleum and geothermal sources of energy faster and cheaper.
Foro engineers overcame major physical obstacles to make their high-powered lasers. They can now deliver laser energy through fiber optic cable over long distances because they figured out how to counter an effect called stimulated Brillouin scattering. This physics problem occurs when the electric field of a high-energy laser triggers vibrations in the fiber that interfere with the movement of photons. The vibrations cause the photons to scatter, often back in the direction from which they traveled.
See the video below.
"With advanced physics simulations and experimental capabilities, Foro Energy developed a solution where the fiber optic cable, laser source, and combined system are simultaneously engineered to eliminate the onset of SBS even at high laser power levels and long distances," the company says on its website.
The company says lasers do away with the traditional elements of drilling: mechanical cutting and grinding, explosives, chemicals and applications of high pressure.
"Foro has been able to overcome this technical challenge of how to suppress stimulated Brillouin scattering and so we’re very pleased that they’ve made tremendous progress being able to send high-intensity laser light through long distances of fiber where many other people thought was going to be impossible," said former Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.
Gifs created from Youtube video courtesy of the U.S. DoE.