Home » Petra’s robot tunnels through hardest rock on earth

Petra’s robot tunnels through hardest rock on earth

by Sion Geschwindt
Robot successfully tunnels through hardest rock on earth

San Francisco startup Petra has successfully completed a 20ft (6m) demonstration tunnel through the hardest rock on earth.

Petra used its new semi-autonomous thermal drilling robotic system ‘Swifty’ which can create 18-60 inch (46-152 cm) diameter tunnels through any geology.

Swifty blasts the rock with an extremely hot, high-pressure spallation head.

The startup says that the drilling robot can excavate small tunnels so quickly and cheaply that it could make a lot of underground infrastructure projects economically feasible.

A combination of heat and high pressure allow this semi-autonomous boring robot to tunnel through undrillable rock (Credit: Petra)

Kim Abrams, CEO and co-founder, commented on the success: “Petra successfully completed a 20ft bore through hard Sioux Quartzite, where we averaged an astounding 1 inch per minute in a geology usually excavated by dynamite.”

“In the past, there have only been a handful of costly and inefficient methods for tunnel construction, starting with manual tools and evolving to the modern tunnel-boring machine.

“Our non-contact method is the next evolution of tunnelling and will usher in a new age of under-grounding utilities.”

DCVC, a Deep Tech venture firm, has invested $30m (c.£21.8m) in the robotics company.

Dr. Chris Boshuizen, DCVC partner and co-founder of Planet, said: “At DCVC we’re committed to investing in companies that are building solutions to make our society’s infrastructure more resilient.

“Petra’s tunneling technology is providing a safer, faster, and more cost-effective option for all underground infrastructure – electricity, water, sewage, and enables projects the world would never have been able to do before.”

Image credit: Petra

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