A flame jet drill developed by Potter Drilling uses extreme heat to cut deep into solid rock - not diamond drill bits that can wear out.
Take a look at this short video in which flame jet drilling is demonstrated by Jared Potter, one of the company founders.
(Flame Jet Drill)
Although this technology is still in the proof of concept stage, I was struck by the similarity between this technique and the, well, somewhat larger scale device employed from orbit by the Romulan mining ship in the recent Star Trek movie.
Obviously, Potter has a ways to go before being able to drill holes in planets from orbit. However, for the more immediate task of drilling at speeds of up to one hundred feet per hour in search of geothermal power sources, without using costly drill bits that must be constantly replaced, to depths of up to ten miles, the Potter flame drill seems to be going places.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 6/14/2009)