"Rock Softening" Method and Apparatus for Efficient Drilling

Technology #ua14-114

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Pierre Lucas
Professor, Materials Science & Engineering
J. Brent Hiskey
Professor, Mining & Geological Engineering
Keith Runge
Director of Research, Materials Science & Engineering
Pierre Deymier
Department Head, Materials Science & Engineering
Moe Momayez
Associate Professor, Mining & Geological Engineering
Managed By
Robert Sleeper
Licensing Manager (520) 626-4604


A method for improved material weakening including rocks, concrete, and other man-made materials. The method established uses an imbalance between the rate of energy input and the rate of energy dissipation in the material resulting in a more significantly more efficient material breakage process. This imbalance is established by reducing the rate of energy dissipation, employing a chemical and/or electric field potential induced in the material. The chemical approach creates a layer of zero zeta potential at the contact between the rock and the tool. The electric field approach prevents the formation of a charged layer at the contact between the rock and the tool, by blocking the transport of charged defects away from the point of high stress concentration (contact between the rock and the tool). This process is then monitored in real time where the chemical and/or electric field potential strength can be adjusted to cancel the rate of charged defects transport.


Efficient extraction techniques is a key element for a healthy and profitable minerals industry. Currently drilling, sawing, crushing, and grinding of rock are among the most energy intensive processes in the production of precious and industry metals. With the United States using approximately 1,246 trilling BTU/year of energy from fossil fuels and electricity there is a great need to reduce the energy requirement related to this industry. Drilling takes up 1% of the total energy consumption in the United States; with drilling and grinding being 25% of that total energy figure. (US Department of Energy) There is a dire need for optimized drilling techniques in this country. Any simple technique that could increase drilling speed, increase equipment longevity, and reduce energy requirements would be of great national interest in this sector. Revolutionary improvements utilizing new methods of rock penetration and material weakening need to be targeted not only to reduce drilling costs but to change the way we depend on energy.


  • Material Weakening/Breaking
  • Related to the weakening and mechanical properties of geo-materials including metals and composite materials
  • Mining and Mineral Development
  • Sampling of Rock Core
  • Mining Industry
  • Monitoring Wells including Water Wells
  • Petroleum Industry (Gas and Oil)
  • Construction
  • Other industries that are involved with drilling, cutting, grinding, or tunneling of rock
  • Future space missions for drilling on asteroids and other planets
  • Also applicable in other fields including metals, ceramics, refractory materials and also biological materials
  • i.e. teeth (Dentistry), bone (Orthopedics)


  • Reduction in energy utilization (Energy Saving)
  • Increase equipment longevity, tool wear
  • Increase in drilling efficiency, drilling rate


Moe Momayez, Ph.D.


Robert Sleeper

Licensing Manager, College of Engineering


O: 520-626-4604