Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Jared Potter is in the process of creating flame-jet drills.  His prototype ejects a jet of hydrogen at 3200ºF.  When this prototype is used on a slab of solid granite, rather than melting it the temperature causes it to shatter as it expand along pre-existing micro-fissures in the granite.  Following a brief exposure to this kind of heat it produces a perfectly smooth hole in the stone.  A second prototype is designed to function in high-pressure conditions that would damage traditional drills.  This burns at 7200ºF.  The flame is used indirectly to heat a jet of water causing it to bore through the rock and at the same time flushes the fragments of of the hole leaving a clean hole.
The motivation behind this innovation is to drill into the core in order to garner geothermal power.  These devices can drill up to 100 ft in an hour, before it requires a replacement.  These prototypes could revolutionize sources of energy and bring geothermal energy to the forefront as a readily available source of energy.  The prospect of easily accessible energy could provide an inexpensive and realistic green alternative to current fuel sources.

Potter seems to be intrinsically  motivated in that he has continued his father’s work and despite the obvious potential for profit his incentive appears to be harnessing a cheap and clean fuel source.  According to the Collins & Amabile article creativity is frequently accompanied with intrinsic motivation.  The document sites Crutchfield who stated that “greater creativity would result when a person was primarily intrinsically motivated to do a task.”  (Collins & Amabile 299).  They also acknowledge extrinsic motivation’s role in the creative process.  It is generally deemed a negative attribute because extrinsic inspirations distract from the goal of creating and leads to cutting corners and shoddy work.  This does not seem to be the case with Potter, in video footage of him discussing his work he seems enthused about the design and is not daunted by the fact that there are still years before he would actually be able to put his product on the market.  

Jared Potter collaborates with a number of other people on this project.  He seems to be at the forefront of this experiment, but this field requires input from a number of different fields.  Collaboration is required to a certain extent in creative projects but is not by any means universal.  A number of creative people have difficulty functioning with others because they cannot eliminate work.  It should be interesting to see the results of this experiment in the future and how this will affect society’s dependence on fossil fuels.

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