U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Geothermal Technologies Office

Downhole Sensor Holds Transformative Potential

December 13, 2013

Long-term operation of electronics at high temperatures remains a challenge for the geothermal sector; many downhole sensors are prone to failure when deployed in high-temperature wells, which limits the availability and complexity of logging tools available for use in geothermal energy extraction.

Funded by a GTO Recovery Act award, GE Global Research has elevated Silicon Carbide (SiC)-based high temperature electronics to a new level of complexity and integration. SiC is a class of wide-bandgap semiconducting material that holds transformative potential not only for high-temperature electronics but also for sectors ranging from industrial-scale variable speed drive motors to power electronics for a modern electric grid. Testing of the components developed by GE with the active electronic devices and packaging materials indicates operational lifetimes greater than 2000 hours at 300°C. This technology will help enable the use of more sophisticated electronics in drilling systems, sensor packages, and logging tools—all for deployment in geothermal environments.

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