Live and Breathe Underwater Indefinitely In Personal Sub or Habitat
But you will also require clean air -- free of built-up exhaled CO2. CO2 from expired air will build up in a sub or underwater habitat if not scrubbed regularly. That is where a collaboration between Bath University chemical engineers and Duke University mechanical engineers may be very helpful indeed. Their idea promises to allow subs to stay submerged for as long as the power and food supply hold out. In involves the use of "Dixon Rings" (see below) packed in a column.
Based on technology developed in 1948, Dixon rings consist of a fine wire mesh folded into a ring of approximately 3mm in size. The space in the wire mesh provides an extended surface area for the absorption of the CO2.When perfected, this technology will make permanent seafloor habitats and colonies possible. Eventually, similar technology may even allow for rebreathers that allow humans to swim free underwater for long periods of time, without coming back inside the habitat for air.
Many rings are packed into a column, through which gas and liquid flow in a counter-current direction. The combination of salt water and Dixon rings form a compact gas scrubbing unit, which removes CO2 from a closed-circuit breathing environment before safely discharging it into the sea.
Using this system, chemicals to absorb CO2 will no longer be needed in the submersible environment and time spent on the sea bed could be extended.
Prof Kolaczkowski said: ‘Chemical engineers are excited about using Dixon rings in applications where gaseous or volatile species are transferred between gas and liquid phases, and where the device needs to be compact.
‘With the Computational Fluid Dynamic modelling skills at S and C Thermofluids, we will make rapid progress with developing novel and compact gas scrubbers. The removal of carbon dioxide from exhaled air is a great application. There will be many more possibilities to consider.’
Dr Lew Nuckols of Duke University said: ‘An estimated 90 per cent of human-produced carbon dioxide is absorbed by oceans. The research at Bath, in partnership with us, could revolutionise techniques to remove metabolically produced carbon dioxide from subsea operations.’ _Engineer
Of course you may also want to learn to grow CO2 utilising plants or algae insider your sub or habitat, which can also perform part of the job of CO2 scrubbing. Saltwater plants may do best. Since you will need a lot of food for an extended underwater stay, learning to grow plants in your undersea living space is not such a bad idea anyway.
Dixon rings are used in other separation processes as well -- such as the separation of heavy water from ordinary water.