Renegade Drillers Aim for the Earth's Mantle
October 3, 2012 3:32 PM
Project will try to drill down 6 km at the crust's thinnest location in the Pacific Ocean
It sounds like a plot of a science fiction movie. But to
, a geochemistry professor at the UK's
University of Southampton
The Integrated Ocean Drilling Program
" (IODP) co-leader, the ambitious effort to be the first humans to drill to the Earth's mantle is dead serious.
I. The Race to the Mantle
While many have long held that such an effort is infeasible given current technology and the expense involved, Professor Teagle and company hatched a bold scheme to venture out in one of three locations in the Pacific Ocean and use deep-sea drilling equipment to tunnel 6 km (3.7 miles) down, eventually hitting the mantle.
On land the Earth's crust is up to 60 km thick, making drilling to the mantle unlikely to succeed with today's technology. But Professor Teagle is convinced that by using deep sea drilling at one of these locations (ocean ridges) where the crust is the thinnest, the mantle can be reached and sampled for "only" about $1B USD.
The effort will require 10 km-long (6.2 miles) drill pipes to drill through the ultra-hard rocks that are though to surround the mantle.
Croatian meteorologist Andrija Mohorovicic first discovered the Earth’s mantle-crust boundary. The mantle is a 2,900 km layer of the Earth's onion-like composition. Composed mostly of silicon dioxide (the same material that sand or semiconductors are made of), temperatures at the crust border range from 500 to 900 °C (932 to 1,652 °F). The mantle, at its molten inner surface touches the
Earth's molten nickel-iron core
, where temperatures reach 4,000 °C (7,230 °F).
Professor Teagle calls the project "the most challenging endeavor in the history of Earth science", comparing it to
the Apollo Program
. He says the project will serve to "inspire" future generations of scientists and will leave a "legacy of fundamental scientific knowledge" -- namely, giving a never-before-glimpsed look at representative mantle chemistry, temperatures, and pressure. According to Professor Teagle, this would be a big step forward as we currently only have a "reasonable" of the Mantle's composition and behavior.
The hardest challenge will be digging through the hard rocks closest to the mantle.
[Image Source: CNN]
He comments in a
, "[The mantle] is the engine that drives how our planet works and why we have earthquakes and volcanoes and continents. We have the textbook cartoons but detailed knowledge is lacking."
II. No Guarantees
The project will make use of a pre-existing Japanese deep-sea drilling vessel named Chikyu. A hulking, lumbering ship Chikyu can carry up to 10 km of drilling pipes and set a scientific deep sea drilling world-record of 2.2 km in early testing. The hole drilled by the IODP drills will be a mere 30 cm in diameter -- or roughly one foot wide.
The Chikyu, at sea [Image Source: CNN]
Professor Teagle gives some perspective on how much a feat this is, commenting, "It will be the equivalent of dangling a steel string the width of a human hair in the deep end of a swimming pool and inserting it into a thimble 1/10 mm wide on the bottom, and then drilling a few meters into the foundations."
The drill bits will need to be replaced every 50 to 60 hours, and additionally special bits may need to be swapped to drill through ultra-hard near-mantle crust layer. That means the project could take more than a year to complete, unless better drill bits can be produced.
The Chikyu can carry up to 10 km worth of pipes. [Image Source: CNN]
The IODP is not the first effort to drill down to the mantle. The first major attempt dates back to 1966 when a team of U.S. researchers drilled off the coast of the eastern Pacific's Guadalupe Island. The project, dubbed "Project Mohole" in honor or Professor "Mo" Mohorovicic, reached only a few meters before it was abandoned.
A land-based project by the Russians in the 1980s in the Kola Peninsula drilled down 12 km into the Earth's crust, earning a record for deepest borehole that still stands. Exxon Mobil Corp. (
) in 2011 drilled a longer borehole (12+ km) in Easter Russia, however the hole was drilled on an angle.
Thus to summarize how close man has came to drilling to the mantle yet, the best answer is "not very close".
The ocean-based effort clearly provides an easier route that is within historic borehole depths (12 km). However, the difficulties of drilling at sea and of penetrating the hard inner crust make success uncertain, even as Professor Teagle's team forges ahead.
"I want people to see my movies in the best formats possible. For [Paramount] to deny people who have Blu-ray sucks!" -- Movie Director Michael Bay
Earth's Outer Core, Rotation, Surface Air Temperature May Explain Climate Change
March 14, 2011, 1:48 PM
Report: U.S. Expected to Lose Lead in Space Race
July 12, 2008, 4:18 AM
PIQ ROBOTTM reveals its new artificial intelligence software
November 29, 2016, 12:59 AM
One more time - Happy Thanksgiving to Everyone Around the World
November 24, 2016, 4:00 AM
Google’s Smart Contact Lens Project gets halted for 2016
November 20, 2016, 7:00 AM
Cell Research Study shows African Americans have greater immune response to infection
November 10, 2016, 1:00 AM
UTHealth Clinical Trial Shows Progress Using Stem Cells to Treat Traumatic Brain Injury
November 8, 2016, 1:00 AM
Uber Partners with Circulation to Pilot Program Connecting Transportation and Digital Health Care
November 6, 2016, 5:00 AM
Most Popular Articles
LG G6 – The Latest Flagship Smartphone by LG for 2017
February 14, 2017, 7:05 AM
New iMac and Release Date
February 4, 2017, 9:30 AM
Dubai announces passenger drone plans.
February 14, 2017, 7:56 AM
New Lima Ultra – Up to 7TBs of Free Personal Cloud
February 4, 2017, 7:40 AM
Seagate FireCuda – 2TB of Fast Gaming Solid State Hybrid Drive Storage
February 6, 2017, 8:24 AM
Latest Blog Posts
Here is how startups are helping new parents in raising children
Feb 20, 2017, 6:45 AM
Around the World
Feb 18, 2017, 5:48 AM
News of Future
Feb 17, 2017, 6:30 AM
Amazon parachutes May Float Packages to Customers
Feb 16, 2017, 8:00 AM
Now you Can Watch Facebook on Your TV
Feb 15, 2017, 7:42 AM
Feb 14, 2017, 5:36 AM
Razer Blade Stealth – Little Kaby Lake Powerhouse
Feb 13, 2017, 7:50 AM
Android 7.0 Nougat 7.0 Update Bring Less Battery Life for Samsung Galaxy S7 & S7 Edge
Feb 12, 2017, 7:45 AM
Apple iPhone 8 – OLED Display & Wireless Charging
Feb 11, 2017, 8:09 AM
Feb 10, 2017, 6:15 AM
Feb 9, 2017, 6:00 AM
Eye catching news
Feb 8, 2017, 6:16 AM
Some World News
Feb 7, 2017, 6:15 AM
Feb 6, 2017, 10:11 AM
Feb 5, 2017, 7:27 AM
Notes and News
Feb 4, 2017, 5:53 AM
Feb 3, 2017, 5:30 AM
Feb 2, 2017, 7:00 AM
News Around The World.
Feb 1, 2017, 7:20 AM
Jan 31, 2017, 7:57 AM
Tips of Today
Jan 30, 2017, 6:53 AM
More Blog Posts
Copyright 2017 DailyTech LLC. -
Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information