American-Made Challenges


Geothermal Geophone Prize

The Geophone Prize will catalyze the development of high temperature, downhole seismic monitoring for enhanced geothermal systems (EGS)


The Geothermal Geophone Prize

Spearheaded by the Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy, and in partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), the Geophone Prize spurs creativity and addresses the challenges of operating seismic sensors in geothermal environments. 

The American-Made High Temperature Geothermal Geophone Prize is designed to catalyze the development of high temperature, downhole capable seismic monitoring for enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) in the American instrumentation community. This is accomplished through a series of prize competitions and the development of a diverse and powerful support network that leverages national laboratories, energy incubators, and other resources from across the United States. 


90 Gigawatts by 2050: 

The Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) is focused on advancing EGS technology because it has the potential to enable the development of 90 gigawatts of projected geothermal electricity capacity by 2050 (as highlighted in the GeoVision: Harnessing the Heat Beneath Our Feet report.)  Achieving this level of deployment require technical innovations in EGS, however. One of the critical areas centers around advances in subsurface sensing, which requires the expertise of the high temperature electronics (HTE) community. Growth in HTE applications across multiple sectors has been significant in the last decade and is ripe for adaptation to the seismic sensor technology space.


Earn Cash Prizes for Development of Successful Geophone:

The Geophone Prize comprises three progressive competitions that catalyze innovation in the U.S. geothermal industry by harnessing the advances HTE can provide in tool design and functionality. This new initiative not only provides cash prizes, but also engages America’s incubators, investors, universities, 17 national laboratories, and others to help participants achieve their goals.


Figure 1. The Geothermal Geophone Prize offers three escalating rounds and substantial cash and other benefits to spark innovation in high temperature seismic sensors.


Competitors in the Phase 1: Concept! , Phase 2: Design!, and Phase 3: Build! Contests participate in three escalating challenges. The contests provide a total of $3.65 million in incentives—$2.55 million in cash prizes, $1.1 million in vouchers. Winning Phase 2: Design! is required to compete in Phase 3: Build!; however, new teams may join during Phase 2: Design! without competing in  Phase 1: Concept!. 



Please review the official rules for the complete application process and instructions for competing.

If you want to subscribe to updates on the prize or have any questions, you may use the contact feature on the HeroX platform, or message us directly.


Challenge Updates

Voucher Capabilities Menu for Phase 2

Sept. 28, 2023, 9:20 a.m. PDT by National Renewable Energy Laboratory

We have uploaded the Phase 2: Make! Voucher Capabilities Menu to the HeroX resources tab.

This document includes national laboratory voucher capabilities for the Geothermal Geophone Prize. Vouchers can be redeemed, should you win Phase 2. 

Please note that, as a competitor, you will need to submit a Voucher Slide with your Phase 2 submission, which outlines where you would intend to redeem your voucher and what you would intend to do with it (see page 23 of the Official Rules for more information).

Please also review the Voucher Guidelines to learn more about the voucher process.

Geophone Prize Official Rules: Updated!

July 26, 2023, 12:25 p.m. PDT by National Renewable Energy Laboratory

The Official Rules now include:

  • Additional context about the frequency response, noise levels, and wide bandwidth specifications in Section 1.3, “Prize Performance Goals”, starting on page 8. 
  • Additional explanation for the definition of a three-component sensor in Section 5.17, “Definitions”, paragraph 1, starting on page 37.

To review updates made to the rules, please see page 3 of the rules. The Official Rules can be found here and also under the Resources tab on HeroX.

Optional Phase 2 Check-in Meetings – Now Available!

July 18, 2023, 12:59 p.m. PDT by NREL Prize Administrator

Competitors in the Geophone Prize can now schedule optional check-in meetings with the Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) staff. 

These meetings will consist of approximately 30 minutes to review Phase 2 submission requirements and answer any questions your team may have about submitting to Phase 2. 

To schedule a call, please email .

Thank you!

Phase 2 Deadline – Extended!

May 22, 2023, 2:12 p.m. PDT by National Renewable Energy Laboratory

The Phase 2 submission deadline for the Geophone Prize has been extended from October 2, 2023, to December 1, 2023.

The timeline has been updated on HeroX, and the Official Rules document will be updated soon.

Please connect with questions at Please submit your Phase 2 submission by 5pm ET, December 1, 2023.

Thank you!

Geothermal Seismic 101 Webinar Recording

March 6, 2023, 9:38 a.m. PST by NREL Prize Administrator

Missed it live? You can find the recording of the webinar Geothermal Seismic 101 for Phase 2 of the Geophone Prize here

During this webinar Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) guests review why the industry needs: 

  •  high-sensitivity low-noise wide-bandwidth sensors,
  • the sensors at depth / 225C,
  • sensors to last for at least six months without degrading. 

They also review: 

  • how the industry normally record the signal coming from a sensor,
  • what a seismic array looks like in the field and how the industry streams the data to a central website,
  • what the industry does with the waveform data, 
  • what answers the industry is ultimately looking for from the data at depth that they are currently not getting now with low-temperature shallow tools. 

 Thank you!