By David Ponce
We’d love to start this article by saying “Don’t expect to pick this up at your local Home Depot anytime soon”… but to be honest, this is exactly what it sounds like you’ll be able to do, whithin a few years. Eli Jerby and his colleagues at Tel Aviv University in Israel have developed a special drill that uses microwaves to make holes from 1mm to 1cm wide in concrete and glass simply by heating the materials past their melting point, (nearly 2,000 ?C) and pushing the drill bit through.
The drill bit is a needle-like antenna that emits intense microwave radiation. The microwaves create a hot spot around the bit, melting or softening the material so that the bit can be pushed in.
But the drill can’t bore through everything effectively. Sapphire’s melting point, for instance, is too high. And steel conducts heat too well for a hot spot to develop. But the device works fine on rocks and concrete. In fact, the heat may even strengthen holes’ walls in ceramics by welding together the fine grains in the material.
Drilling by melting is nothing new, as it’s been done with lasers for some time. But this is cost prohibitive, while the new drill would cost hardly more than a regular drill. The only concern would be the worker’s safety, which will allegedly be assured via a simple metal shield in front of the bit.
Come inside for a picture of the bit in action, and that of a hole drilled in alumina.