Can divers breath liquids to reach greater depths?

Hello MOOCers,

Some of you might wonder, why is it that with modern technology, diving equipment companies can’t come up with a new diving system that will allow divers to go as deep as an ROV, right to the bottom of the deepest trenches?. Well, this blog might answer your question.

Breathing liquid, "Abyss"
Breathing liquid, “The Abyss” – 1989

Jacques Yves Cousteau once said: The future diver will be able to move freely from the ocean surface to its depths, while he breath liquids. This idea of a diver ventilating liquids to overcome gas compressibility effects (which are associated with normal Scuba diving, such as decompression sickness), also played a major role in James Cameron’s 1989 sci-fi film
“The Abyss”, as you can see in this video:

But are they right?.
Until the late 70’s, a lot of research examined the option of man breathing liquid by using oxygenated perfluorocarbons (PFCs) – a type of liquid that can dissolve enormous quantities of gas. The general idea is that the liquid would be contained in an enclosed helmet that would replace all the air in the lungs, nose and ear cavities. Since the 90’s, liquid ventilation techniques have been used successfully on premature babies with lungs that are not developed enough to comfortably adjust from the liquid environment of the womb to inhaling gaseous air. Nevertheless, most of research in this field on adults, reached a conclusion that the spheric geometry of the human alveoli, makes it impossible to efficiently absorb oxygen into the blood stream and remove Co2 from it. And therefor, the idea was dropped by the science community.

Another revolutionary concept of a diving system, is the one based upon the idea of using ‘artificial gills’ which will enable the diver to extract the oxygen molecules from the sea water, much like the same way that fishes do. A recent design of such a system was developed by the South Korean designer Jeabyun Yeon, and it made the news headlines. Due, keep in mind that this system is still a conceptual design and not a feasible and functional unit yet. You can read more about this system by clicking on this image:

Artificial gills breathing unit
Artificial gills breathing unit

So meanwhile, until we’ll all be free to explore the abyss with our own deep diving systems,
I hope you enjoyed week 2 and you’re excited and ready for week 3.

Eric

 

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