You are here

High Pressure Diver Breathing Gas Supply System


OBJECTIVE: Develop a small, high pressure (7,000-10,000 PSI) diver-worn air flask (tank) and associated regulator that can provide equal or greater breathing gas supply to current systems but with a smaller physical form. DESCRIPTION: The current air flasks authorized for use by Navy divers for SCUBA diving hold approximately 80 cubic feet of air at 3,000 psi, weigh approximately 40 lbs and measure approximately 2.5 feet long by 8 inches in diameter (ref 1). These are typical of the standard flask found in commercial and recreational diving. This flask is normally carried on the back of the diver. While the duration of that air supply is dependent on the depth of the dive and the exertion of the diver, one normally expects anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour of air supply from a single tank. The current technology that is able to produce 10,000 psi cylinders and regulators results in systems that are too large and heavy to be used in diving applications. Any benefit that could be realized from the use of these higher pressure systems would be offset by the added size and weight of the equipment needed for containment. In addition, portable high pressure air compressors are currently only capable of providing gas up to 6,000 PSI. The Navy is seeking innovation in tank fabrication, tank materials and regulators to support the higher pressures that will allow production, storage and deployment of these high pressure diving systems (ref 2). Development of a high pressure regulator and hose assembly would be required to reduce the flask pressure from the stored 10,000psi to a breathable pressure of approximately 140psi. The regulator would need to be small enough and light enough to be effectively used in a SCUBA diving application. This is currently not available at these higher pressures. Current regulators are limited to approximately 4500psi flask pressure (ref 3). Innovation would be required in regulators and materials to safely of support these pressure and size requirements. Air supply is the most significant limiting factor for mission execution of a free-swimming diver. The use of multiple existing tanks by a diver, while possible to an extent, is cumbersome and significantly affects the diver"s ability to swim and work. The Navy is seeking development of a small (less than 18 inches in length and/or 4 inches in diameter), high pressure (approximately 10,000psi) flask that could hold approximately 12 cubic feet of air. Multiple small, high pressure flasks could be carried in a variety of configurations on the diver that could be more hydrodynamic and accessible than the current single tank on the back. Significant benefits could be found in Combat Diver mission areas through development of lower-profile diving equipment (ref 4 and 5). Additionally, utilizing a clustered tank configuration of smaller, high pressure tanks that occupies the same space as the current tank would enable multiple dives from a single air source or longer duration dives. This could also reduce the logistic footprint and transportation requirements by requiring smaller tanks which would increase mobility of expeditionary dive forces. The use of high pressure tanks for emergency gas supply would increase factors of safety for diving operations and enable access to missions that are currently unavailable due to air supply limitations. PHASE I: The company will develop concepts for a high pressure air flask, regulator, and hose assembly that can be utilized by a diver as an underwater breathing gas supply system as described above. The company will demonstrate the feasibility of the concepts in meeting Navy needs and will establish that the concepts can be feasibly developed into a useful product for the Navy. Feasibility will be established by material testing and analytical modeling. The small business will provide a Phase II development plan with performance goals and key technical milestones, and that will address technical risk reduction. PHASE II: Based on the results of Phase I and the Phase II development plan, the small business will develop a high pressure air flask, regulator, and hose assembly prototype for evaluation as appropriate. The prototype will be evaluated to determine its capability in meeting the performance goals defined in Phase II development plan and the Navy requirements for the High Pressure Diver Breathing Gas Supply System. System performance will be demonstrated through prototype evaluation and modeling or analytical methods over the required range of parameters including various operational environments. Evaluation results will be used to refine the prototype into an initial design that will meet Navy requirements. The company will prepare a Phase III development plan to transition the technology to Navy use. PHASE III: If Phase II is successful, the company will be expected to support the Navy in transitioning the technology for Navy use. The company will develop High Pressure Divers Breathing Gas Supply system for evaluation to determine its effectiveness in an operationally relevant environment. The company will support the Navy for test and validation to certify and qualify the system for Navy use. PRIVATE SECTOR COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL/DUAL-USE APPLICATIONS: Private sector applications of this product mirror the various military applications such as providing large quantities of breathable air for underwater diving (commercial and recreational), firefighting and contaminated atmospheres, emergency air supply for accidents, confined spaces and aircraft, and portable high volume air supply for pneumatic tools. Any application that currently requires a stored air supply, either for breathing or performing work, can benefit by the use of a smaller, higher volume system. Small diameter flasks that provide equal or greater supplies of air than current systems may enable completely new diving rigs, submersibles, pneumatic tools and other equipment. This product would be considered a"game-changer". REFERENCES: 1. D. E. Warkander and C. E. G. Lundgren, Development of Comprehensive Performance Standards for Underwater Breathing Apparatus, Final report to the United States Navy, Naval Sea Systems Command, Deep Submergence Biomedical Development Program and the Office of Naval Research, University at Buffalo, 2000. 2. B. C. Odegard, Jr. and G. J. Thomas, Testing of High Pressure Hydrogen Composite Tanks, DOE Hydrogen Program Review, NREL/CP-570-30535, 2001. 3. R. P. Layton, D. E. Warkander, and M. J. Briere, Final Summary Report: Unmanned Evaluation of Scuba Regulators, NEDU TR 04-38, Navy Experimental Diving Unit, Aug 2004. 4. U.S. Navy Diving Manual Revision 6. SS521-AG-PRO-010. 5. U.S. Navy General Specification for the Design, Construction, and Repair of Diving and Hyperbaric Equipment (NAVSEA TS500-AU-SPN-010).
US Flag An Official Website of the United States Government