Millimeter-wave Drilling Beam System for Faster and Deeper Ground Penetrations

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Millimeter-wave drilling system
Daniel Cohn
Plasma Science and Fusion Center, MIT
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Paul Woskov
Plasma Science and Fusion Center, MIT
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Jack Turner
MIT Technology Licensing Officer
Patent Protection

Millimeter-wave drilling system

US Patent 8,393,410

High power radiation used to drill through rock as an alternative to conventional rotary drill-bit technology.


Drilling boreholes into the earth’s subsurface to access new sources of gas, oil and geothermal energy.

Problem Addressed

There is a need for better and more cost efficient drilling technology, especially for deep drilling beyond 25,000 ft.


We present a millimeter wave beam drilling system that could achieve much faster and deeper performance than conventional rotary drill-bit technology. This system uses an intense beam of millimeter wave electromagnetic energy in combination with pressure to thermally open a path through solid strata. The millimeter wave power is provided by gyrotron technology, a high power source of millimeter wave radiation in the frequency range of approximately 30-300 GHz. The borehole acts as a guide to propagate the high power beam to greater depths as it is created. In addition, millimeter wave diagnostics at frequencies offset from the high power beam can be superimposed on the drilling beam to monitor temperature, rate of penetration, and quality of the borehole in real time, providing information for control of the drilling process.


  • Faster and deeper drilling compared to conventional rotary deep drilling technologies
  • Real-time control of drilling process