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Home > News > Cagey Solution: Will Nano Traps Make Geothermal Power Earthquake-Safe?

July 20th, 2009

Cagey Solution: Will Nano Traps Make Geothermal Power Earthquake-Safe?

Abstract:
Scientists could use nano "cages" to increase the heat-storing efficiency of shallow, low-temperature geothermal wells, thereby decreasing the need for deeper, more earthquake-prone ones.

Earth's molten mantle is a potentially inexhaustible source of energy that could meet 10 percent of our nation's energy needs, but cost and safety concerns have hampered the growth of geothermal energy. Now, researchers have announced plans to test a more efficient way to tap into safer, low-temperature geothermal stores using nanotechnology.

So, environmental engineer Peter McGrail and his colleagues at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DoE) Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are proposing a way to change that.

Eight months ago, his team made a surprising discovery during their work on capturing and storing carbon. They were working with cagelike nanostructures that could trap carbon dioxide when they learned that they could also increase the heat-storing capacity of alkanes by a factor of 20. "That discovery led us to the idea of trying to apply this on the geothermal basis," McGrail says.

In theory, he explains, this fluid could allow a 30 to 40 percent increase in the efficiency of power production from low-temperature geothermal sources. McGrail and his team christened the structures "metal-organic heat carriers," or MOHCs, and with $1.2 million in funding from the DoE, the lab will test electricity generation using different blends on a lab bench over the next three years.


Source:
scientificamerican.com

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