Project Info


Will Fleckenstein

Project Goals and Description:

This project is interesting because it meaningfully contributes to a cutting-edge geothermal technology development project to build a subsurface heat exchanger, which can contribute meaningfully to developing a zero-emission power source with worldwide application. Mines submitted a successful proposal to the DOE to build, test, and run equipment at the University of Utah’s Frontier Observatory for Research in Geothermal Energy (FORGE) located in Milford, Utah needed for a subsurface heat exchanger to solve the EGS riddle, and challenges abound.  This project would contribute to that effort with three students looking at three critical areas: choice of material such as grease to prevent cement fouling of the tool mechanism, choice of hydraulic oil or grease within the actuation mechanism, and the metallurgy or coating of fingers to prevent damage to the actuation balls.  Students will learn design skills for choosing materials that make or break whether a tool or system works.

More Information:

Grand Challenge: Make solar energy economical.
Below are links to information about EGS, FORGE, and an animation of the tool with the fingers that the ball travels through that must be protected from cement fouling, they hydraulic fluid or grease that assists with the actuation and the fingers may damage the dissolvable balls that pass through them Enhanced Geothermal System (EGS) Fact Sheet (, About – Utah FORGE, The Site – Utah FORGE,

Primary Contacts:

Dr. Will Fleckenstein and experts from Mines partners that are working on the design and fabrication of the tools needed.    

Student Preparation


Students should have a keen interest in wanting to design tools and mechanisms that work. Students should also want to work on projects where their contributions can materially impact whether the project succeeds or fails. Students should have research and writing skills commensurate to that of a junior-level college student. Sophomore students with excellent research and writing skills are welcome to apply!


4-5 hours of work per week (could be more by mutual agreement)


Students will learn or hone scientific research and writing skills. Students will learn to: - formulate scientific research hypotheses - gather data - analyze data - formulate conclusions - apply results to solve real-world challenges - become immersed in the transformation of geothermal power from a good idea to a system that competes to provide low cost, zero emissions power.


Phase 1: Professor will explain the research topics and students will research and prepare literature reviews of topics, Phase 2: Student will present results and work with the Professor and partner experts on how to verify results, costs and applicability Phase 3: Verification


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