This new technology cuts through rocks without grinding

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Bob Goodfellow has worked on underground construction and design projects for 30 years and now works on the Los Angeles subway system. His company Aldea is working with Petra to test its initial system.

“It’s like I’ve never seen it before,” Goodfellow said. “We’ve been talking about things like nuclear-powered tunnel boring machines and non-contact tunneling, but it’s just talking about prototypes. As far as I know, these people are the first people to truly and truly commercialize them. “

Since 2018, Petra has been operating in stealth mode. Abrams said that initially, the founding team thought that plasma might be the ideal way to cut rock. But this method has encountered problems, including the size of the equipment, how to provide plasma, and how to deal with the magma pool generated by the excavation.

“We ended up melting a lot of rock and producing lava, and when we produced lava, it effectively kept our system in orbit,” she said.

Petra CTO and Tesla co-founder Ian Wright joined the company about a year ago, working on the energy consumption of powering the plasma torch, but began to keep the team away from the plasma torch method. Wright said that he often asked questions about the Boring Company, a tunnel company co-founded by Elon Musk, but Wright said he did not play any role in the Boring Company.

Utility companies use a variety of methods to bury power or cable lines in the ground. On city streets, it is usually done by cutting asphalt or concrete with a saw with a huge blade. In sparsely populated places, dynamite or other explosives will blast the rock, or the excavator will break the rock into small pieces.Traditional drill bits and mixed chemicals can be used for drilling, and the drilling machine can dig tunnels like tunnels As big as a highway Or as small as a few inches wide.

John Fluharty is a contractor who installs pipes for utility companies and is a member of PDi2, which researches and supports methods for “underground” utilities and electricity. He said that the cost of burying power lines is usually five times the cost of laying on the ground. The cost of a hard rock installation may be 20 times that of an overhead line. But once installed, the maintenance cost is much lower than that of the ground line.

Concerns about climate change have increased interest in burying electrical wires. Researchers at Princeton University concluded that in order for the United States to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, the country’s power grid will have to increase its electricity by 60%, including a four-fold increase in wind and solar capacity.Technological advancements have allowed power lines to Carry more electricity It can also help combat climate change and promote wind and solar farm projects.

Proponents say that in a world where extreme weather may threaten people’s use of electricity, it makes more sense to move utilities underground, especially in places prone to fires or hurricanes. In recent years, high-voltage lines have caused many fires, including a fire in Northern California in 2018 that killed 84 people. Pacific Gas & Electric pleaded guilty to manslaughter in connection with the fire and recently promised to 10,000 miles Underground power lines in central and northern California.

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