Q Drive
Cryo? It's all Relative: Hot is Cool In Hell!
How do you keep electronic sensors from burning up when the local temperature is over 200C? Maybe if you're steering a relief well, deep under the earth?  Qdrive acoustic cryogenic cooling might do the trick!
Date: 18-Jun-2010

You've likely read that the only permanent fix for the leaking oil well in the Gulf of Mexico is a relief well, drilled to meet the leaking borehole, thousands of feet under the seafloor - a floor itself a dark mile under the sea.  How can a drilled hole that long, deep, and far away through solid rock be aimed with enough precision to hit an existing hole that's just inches in diameter?

In modern deep drilling, especially directional drilling, the head of the drill string includes electronic instruments that monitor the position and direction of the drill!  Data links send that information back up the string to the drilling rig, enabling very precise vectoring of the drill tip, so long as those instruments survive.  But deep underground, it's hot! On average, local temperature rises by 1.5 to 3 C for each 100 meters of depth. Silicon electronics are unreliable above about 80C, so holes over 2000 meters deep are a problem! Cooling those electronics takes a kind of hot-running cryocooler that can take the local heat and pump it across this large gradient.  Pumping heat from 70C to 250+ is no job for an ordinary refrigerator!

CFIC-Qdrive recently delivered such a very special cooler to pump heat out of drill tip electronics to a local environment well over 200C.  This remarkable cooler fits into the restricted, narrow tubular space of a drill tip, using a set of five custom miniature STAR motors in coaxial concert, to drive an acoustic coldhead designed by and built with Los Alamos National Laboratory.  These amazing motors include cobalt laminations, samarium magnets, and glass wire insulation, specially chosen to survive operation at over 250C, plus the huge shock loads and vibration of rock drilling.

While few Qdrive users need such extreme modifications, it's good to know that Qdrive's acoustic cooling and exclusive STAR linear motor technologies are tough enough to do it, and that CFIC-Qdrive can deliver customized solutions to even the most challenging cooling problem IN Earth!