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Space drill technology may be boost for Earthbound electric cars

Drilling technology designed for the European Space Agency’s Mars probe could deliver a portable charger that could revolutionise the electric car industry here on Earth.

The ESA reports that the device would draw the same voltage as a vacuum cleaner thanks to a tiny transformer.

The charger is a by-product of a project to develop a space drill that could be used on Mars or on asteroids. It has been developed by Norwegian company Zaptec as part of its plasma drill research and development.

The ESA believes the plasma drill – using hot, electrically charged gas – will be more efficient at slicing through rocks in space than traditional drills.

“Rotary drills are inefficient in space,” says Zaptec’s CEO, Brage Johansen. “They suffer friction in the borehole and require heavy equipment.”

Zaptec’s innovation lies in the compact transformers that provide the voltage for the plasma spark, thanks to advanced cooling techniques and miniaturisation.

“We realised that the same transformers we were developing for the space drill could also make the best chargers for electric cars,” says Brage.

Bill Condie

Bill Condie

Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.

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