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"Neo Geo" -- The Discovery Files

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Researchers at the Ohio State University and the University of Minnesota are developing a geothermal power plant that will lock away carbon dioxide underground--and use it as a tool to boost electric power generation by at least 10 times compared to existing geothermal energy approaches.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Earthborn energy boost

I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files--new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

Geothermal energy (Sound effect: sound of slight rumble, inner earth) today, typical geothermal power plants tap into hot water deep underground, use that heat to turn turbines that generate electricity, and then return the now cooler water back to the deep subsurface. But researchers at Ohio State, the University of Minnesota, and Lawrence Livermore Laboratory have designed a new kind of geothermal power plant that could boost output by at least ten times.

Their computer simulations show a plant that in addition to water, separately pipes liquid CO2 and liquid nitrogen to draw the heat from underground through a ten-mile wide system of concentric rings. CO2 and nitrogen extract heat a lot more efficiently than water.

One benefit of the multi-fluid system is its ability to store perhaps hundreds of gigawatt hours of energy for even months at a time.

And here's a bonus: The process could lock away as much as 15 million tons of unwanted CO2 per year about the same amount produced by three medium-sized coal-fired power plants. The team says its approach could expand the use of geothermal energy beyond the handful of states that take advantage of it now.

Could be our future energy picture is going to have some warm earth tones.

"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research--brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

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