Scientists at the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have developed a new method for capturing significantly more heat from low-temperature geothermal resources. A technical and economic analysis conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has estimated that enhanced geothermal systems could provide 10 percent of the United States’ overall electrical generating capacity by 2050.

Their technique uses the rapid expansion and contraction capabilities of a new liquid, called a biphasic fluid, developed by the research team. To improve efficiency, the scientists have added nanostructured metal-organic heat carriers, which boost the power generation capacity to near that of a conventional steam cycle.

The researchers expect to have a functioning prototype generating electricity by the end of the year.

Ironically, development of the technique came out of research aimed at finding nanomaterials for capturing carbon dioxide from buring fossil fuels.