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Israeli Invention Enables Diving Without Oxygen Tank

Israeli inventor Alon Bodner has found a way to use the small amounts of air already in the water to provide oxygen to divers and even to submarines.
By Test
First Publish: 6/23/2005, 10:00 AM / Last Update: 6/15/2005, 6:52 PM

Bodner's device has the potential to overcome limitations imposed on divers by oxygen tanks. The tanks limit not only the amount of time a diver can remain under water, but also affect the diver's buoyancy and they empty out over the course of a dive. Divers carefully monitor their buoyancy - the tendency to either float up toward the surface or to sink - and actually wear weight belts to be able to keep it at zero. This enables them to concern themselves only with swimming in the direction they want, without having to fight against a potentially increasing tendency to float up or sink. In addition, of course, tanks must be brought to refueling facilities to be reused.

Nuclear submarines and the international space station have long used systems that generate oxygen from water by performing 'Electrolysis' – the separation of oxygen from hydrogen. However, these systems require too much energy for standard submarines, let alone divers, to use.

Bodner told IsraCast that he got the idea for his invention from fish, who do not perform chemical separation of oxygen from water. Instead, they use the dissolved air that exists in the water in order to breathe.

The system uses a physics principle known as "Henry's Law," which states that the amount of gas that can be dissolved in a liquid body is proportional to the pressure on the liquid body.

Using a rapidly rotating centrifuge to create increased pressure inside a small sealed chamber containing sea water, Bodner was able to extract enough oxygen from the water for a human being to breathe.

A laboratory model of the system has already been built and tested. It runs on rechargeable batteries, and can be worn in the form of a vest.

Bodner is now building a full-sized prototype, has already received a patent for the invention in Europe, and is expecting to receive one in the US as well.