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June 07, 2005

Man can breathe like a fish

From LiveScience:

Alan Izhar-Bodner, an Israeli inventor, has developed a way for divers to breathe underwater without cumbersome oxygen tanks. His apparatus makes use of the air that is dissolved in water, just like fish do.

The system uses the "Henry Law" which states that the amount of gas that can be dissolved in a liquid is proportional to the pressure on the liquid. Raise the pressure - more gas can be dissolved in the liquid. Decrease the pressure - gas dissolved in the liquid releases the gas. This is exactly what happens when you open a can of soda; carbon dioxide gas is dissolved in the liquid and is under pressure in the can. Open the can, releasing the pressure, and the gas fizzes out.

Bodner's system apparently uses a centrifuge to lower pressure in part of a small amount of seawater taken into the system; dissolved gas is extracted.

Isracast.com also adds...

Bodner has already built and tested a laboratory model and he is on the path to building a full-scale prototype. Patents for the invention have already been granted in Europe and a similar one is currently pending examination in the U.S. Meetings have already been held with most major diving manufacturers as well as with the Israeli Navy. Initial financial support for the project has been given by Israel Ministry of Industry and Commerce and Bodner is currently looking for private investors to help complete his project.

If everything goes according to plan, in a few years the new tankless breathing system will be operational and will be attached to a diver in the form of a vest that will enable him to stay underwater for a period of many hours.

Seems to be the bottle-neck is the battery life. Since that's a priority in today's culture (with people needing longer running cell phones and laptops) that problem should be handled by others, so that Bodner's invention will be a big boon to oceanography, divers and perhaps even everyone if it opens the doors to the possibility of permanent undersea dwellings. If some kind of reliable energy (geothermal perhaps) could be used on a larger scale, an under sea house could be equipped with several larger versions of this, to provide an unlimited amount of breathable air to the occupants.

Fun to think about, isn't it. Makes me think of the movie Hello Down There (a 1969 movie about a family that volunteers to live in an undersea house, dubbed “The Green Onion”) that I saw when I was a kid. After watching that I always thought it would be fun to live under the ocean. Who knows, maybe in a few years it'll be possible.

Posted by Danny Carlton at June 7, 2005 07:35 AM

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