Chikyu drill prepares to pierce Earth's mantle

  • The world's deepest drill is currently being prepped to pierce the Earth's enigmatic mantle.

    According to PopSci, the Chikyu research vessel (off the coast of Japan) is already capable of retrieving samples at depths of approximately 2,890 feet below the seabed.

    PopSci's Rena Marie Pacella explained that the Chikyu was the first mission to study subduction zones, an area between tectonic plates which is frequently identified as the origin of numerous earthquakes.

    "Over the next three years, scientists will tack on at least an extra mile of drill and attempt the most ambitious mission ever: piercing the Earth's mantle," wrote Pacella.

    "There, scientists expect to find the same conditions as those in the early Earth—and perhaps the same life-forms that thrived then."

    Indeed, engineers are slated to add a higher-tensile-strength steel to build the drill string, which will enable deeper ground penetration at temperatures exceeding 500°F.

    "As the drill bit burrows through sediment and rock, a hose in the drill pipes in a synthetic mud to keep the drill cool and the borehole open under the crushing pressures found at those depths. 

    "A narrow barrel with a razor-sharp edge (think of a very big apple corer) shoots down and pierces the undrilled layer of earth below. The 31-foot-long core samples are [then] analyzed for their chemical and magnetic properties," added Pacella.

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