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Shell backs plans to fire giant bullets into ground to reach geothermal energy

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  • Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 19.31.15HyperSciences has been awarded a $1 million grant from Shell
  • It has a patent on a new type of ram accelerator for geothermal energy
  • ‘Gun’ will repeatedly fire projectiles at 4,500mph (2 km/s) to blast holes
  • Company claims the technique is ten times faster than traditional drilling


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Pictured is a head-on view of the projectile HyperSciences will use to bore into the Earth’s crust

The answer to Earth’s energy crisis could lie a few thousand feet beneath the planet’s surface.

Here, scientists are hoping a nearly limitless amount of geothermal power will provide enough energy to replace Earth’s rapidly depleting fossil fuel resources.

But harnessing this renewable energy source is currently a slow and expensive process, with costs ranging from $5 million to $20 million.

Now one company believes it has a solution; repeatedly firing projectiles at 4,500mph (2 km/s) to blast deep holes in the ground. 

Screen Shot 2015-07-25 at 09.17.54Below Earth’s crust, heat is continually produced in this layer, mostly from the decay of naturally radioactive materials.

The amount of heat within 33,000ft of Earth’s surface contains 50,000 times more energy than all the planet’s oil and natural gas resources.

The latest technology to tap into this resource is known as a ram accelerator and is, in principle, capable of accelerating projectiles to speeds greater than 18,000 mph (8 km/s).

Washington-based drilling technology company HyperSciences, has been awarded a patent on a new type of ram accelerator funded by a $1 million grant from Shell.

Aeronautical engineer, Mark Russell, who heads up the company, says he believes geothermal power is the future for creating electricity.

He also believe it may one day use it to make space travel commonplace, according to a report in

The latest patent details a system in which ‘bullets’ would fire at high velocity causing whatever is in its part to vapourise.

The ram accelerator in this design serves as both the chamber and barrel of this ‘Earth gun.’

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Pictured is a patent diagram detailing the novel drilling system. The company claims the technique used by this technology is ten times faster than traditional drilling

Gas is pumped in and then ignited, causing the pressure in the chamber to increase, pushing the bullet forward at speeds of up to 4,500mph (2 km/s).

Russell says once they get the gun right, it could be used to reach geothermal resources at depths up to two miles by being fired repeatedly. 

He also claims the technique is ten times faster than traditional drilling.

The company is now looking at the possibility of adding plastic explosives, so that they can increase the depth of each shot.

At that speed, the projectile obliterates whatever unfortunate rock or sediment it hits, and the refuse is sucked back out of the hole.

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