quaise energy startup memo


written in prep for mit the engine's tough tech summit with 🍁 leaves starting to change color in boston outside

melting rocks like a leaf blower moves leaves could unlock the next generation of 🌍 geothermal energy quaise energy, coming from mit's plasma science and fusion center in 2018, has raised $63M to do just that. i love their tagline "our work is a necessity, not an option."

🏆 the problem

they are looking to solve one of the largest problems in geothermal: the logarthmic curve for drilling depth in order to access heat. 📈 ex. 4km deep = $5M few days 5km deep = $6-10M few months 8km deep = $30M+ and takes a few years we're limited by our tool set as they cannot handle the depth and temperature. even a diamond drill bit doesnt function. why push depth? more depth = more heat. more heat = more efficient system. right now we barely scratch the surface... literally. we rely on where the heat from the earth's crust is close to the surface (think gysers). there's a latency problem, where we draw away too much heat before it can refill to be efficient. quaise looks to go deeper with the goal of 10-20km (the range depends on where on the crust the hole is dug), which would provide a leap in efficiency as they could hit 500 degrees celsius. and 20km comes from the principle, theoretical limit for millimeter wave technology in their current proof of concept.

💪 the founding team

carlos, ceo, with prior experience 15 years in oil + gas for drilling machinery, mit mechanical eng - matt, pm, with prior experience at altarock and geological research, stanford civil eng the research was coming from paul woskov's decade of research, and they were first brought together by @aaronmandall first backed by vinod's khosla's fund and later supported by mit's the engine.

🚨 the tech

they use a fusion tech hybrid system that combines rotary drilling and gyrotron powered millimeter wave technology to dig into the earth's crust, while using argon to clean and cool the bore while pumping rock to the surface. that essentially means, that instead of using drill bits and having delays with cleaning and clearing, they use an electron gun to make electromagnetic wave to melt the rock. this is a goldilocks situation, as the waves have to be hot enough to melt rocks, without requiring too much energy to bankrupt the whole operation. 🔥microwave waves - too long of waves will pass through material, and it has the power, but not good distance (few meters deep, think souped up kitchen appliances...) 🐻millimeter wave (30 GHz ~ 300 GHz) - will deposit the energy and not scatter easily, it has both power (it has capacity to carry enough MW of energy to melt rock) and distance (10km feasible w/o energy loss) 🧊infared waves (x) - dust and rubble will scatter the waves, has good distance (think fiber optic networks), but not enough power.... if they get this right, it could beat bets on fusion. 👀next steps: 2024 - first fully operational machines

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made with 🖤 in sf.