Imagine diving deep into the ocean to explore the world below with nothing more than a simple mask.
It might sound like something straight out of Waterworld, and Hollywood might not have been too far off, because underwater breathing could soon be a reality.
One day, we might use these sci-fi-looking underwater breathing apparatuses not just for recreation, but possibly survival.
No one knows for sure when the time will come, but the day of heavy tanks and scuba gear might be ending and a new era of underwater exploration just around the corner.
The Future of the World: A Real Waterworld Experience
Floods around the world are starting to increase.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, hundreds of thousands of homes are at risk for flooding as sea levels continue to increase.
From their research, they identified areas in the United States where flooding has occurred not only from storms but rising tides and sea level increases too. Thousands will be displaced by 2100 around the globe as coastal cities flood over, and it is possible that humans will need to adapt to a world where a vast portion of their city is underwater.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), estimates that by 2100, the sea level will increase anywhere from 1.6 to 6.5 feet depending on carbon emissions.
While 2100 might seem far away, people will start to see increases in sea levels as early as 2035 – with an estimated one foot risen by then.
One foot might not seem like a lot, but when you consider where the coastline sits now, the homes and commercial properties that line it, and the current sea level, increasing that by one foot means most of those structures are gone in fewer than 20 years.
The changes happening to the planet cannot be stopped, but they can be slowed. Alternatives to traditional fossil fuels and clean energy will help slow progression, but scientists state that the sea level increases will happen – and humans must adapt to the change of the future.
One Biometric Underwater Breathing Device Could Save the Species
In response to the increased risk for flooding and higher sea levels, Jun Kamei, a scientist from the Royal College of Arts in London, developed a biometric underwater breathing device.
Here is what you need to know about this one-of-a-kind device:
1. It Was Made Using a 3D Printer
3D printers have revolutionized how products are invented, and it looks like the Amphibio joins the 3D crowd. Jun Kamei’s design with artificial gills and a breathing apparatus all printed using a state-of-the-art 3D printer.
2. It is a Hybrid Device
Amphibio is a cross between traditional scuba gear and free diving. It allows you to stay underwater for more extended periods of time and reduces the need for bulkier equipment.
3. It is a Garment
Amphibio’s neatest feature is that it is a garment you wear. The developer pictured a society where half the city was underwater, and you needed to get to areas underwater. With this garment, you go about your day and merely swim underwater to access these areas then move back up to land.
The garment captures air and replenishes your oxygen, all while ridding itself of harmful carbon dioxide.
This is not your average washing-machine-ready garment, however. Its gills are worn like a vest, and the mask connects to a tube which connects the gills to the mask.
It is made from porous hydrophobic materials, and it looks like scaled armor. Kamei has not released the exact makeup of his material, because he’s waiting on a patent for it first. Also, at this time he doesn’t have a working prototype, but he offers photographs of what it looks like once complete.
4. The Idea Came from Studying Underwater Insects
Kamei got his idea by studying insects that survive underwater. These aquatic breathing bugs were able to trap air in their exoskeleton, and that exoskeleton functions like a gill and barrier between their bodies and the water. Oxygen molecules naturally seep in, allowing them to breathe on land and under the water with ease.
5. Plenty of Testing Still Required
Realize that the Amphibio is a concept, but a promising one. Right now, the device’s current prototype cannot pull enough oxygen from the water to sustain a human’s oxygen demands. The prototype Kamei currently uses reaches a surface area of 43 square feet. Kamei thinks a working model would require 344 square feet of surface area to generate enough oxygen – which is about the size of two bedrooms.
Therefore, the device most likely will become a full-body suit rather than one you wear on your shoulders and around your face as the pictures depict. As for how comfortable or stylish it might be, no one can say for sure until a working prototype finish.
6. Amphibio was Entered in the James Dyson Award
The Amphibio entered into the James Dyson Awards for 2018. Its competition includes stackable wall plugs, water mask dispensers for fires, an AR-based bandage system, and even a smart trash can.
Most of the devices competing against the Amphibio are equally stunning and futuristic.
What about Other Underwater Breathing Devices in Development?
Some devices have appeared on crowdfunding websites over the past few years, but most were controversial and many never reached production.
One that made headlines was the artificial gill system that claimed it would provide a person with up to 45 minutes of oxygen at 15 feet underwater. The device featured microporous filters with holes that prevented water from entering but allowed water to dissolve and create free-floating oxygen.
Somehow the underwater device could be safely powered using lithium-ion batteries. Quickly scientists jumped on board pointing out how this device would never work.
The device, known as the Triton, received almost $850,000 from donors on Indiegogo. In 2016, the team refunded backers of their project after several articles published focused on how the device would not work and many scientists claimed it was a “scam.”
According to Digital Trends, the device’s promises of artificial gills was right, but it doesn’t deliver on the guarantees of the original campaign. Despite testing and skepticism, Triton relaunched their campaign, being more honest in their videos to avoid further scrutiny. As to whether the Triton model will genuinely deliver – no one can say for sure.
While Triton might also be a flop, there is still hope for the future of underwater breathing in the form of three items:
- Rebreathers: Rebreathers are the scuba gear enhancement that operates by recycling exhaled air, removing the carbon dioxide and squeezing out every molecule of oxygen left in a diving tank. Rebreathers dramatically increase the time of a traditional oxygen tank, but they are nothing new. Instead, they are continually advancing, and since their
conception in 1870, these devices have evolved to make diving entirely different than it was a few years ago.
- The Supa Huka: Adding to the line of underwater breathing devices seeking funding on crowd sites is the Supa Huka. This tankless diving system allows a person to dive up to 30 feet for two hours on one charge. The device only launched its campaign in June 2018, but the product can be purchased on their website for those willing to test it out since they did receive full funding and started production.
- Improvements to Regulators: Scuba Diving says that improvements to regulators are likely to be the most realistic underwater breathing humans will see for a while. The Navy’s Experiment Diving Unit is continuing testing on improved models, including the idea of a free-swimming robot that could bring along extra air.
Underwater Breathing Devices Will Emerge from the Depths Soon Enough
While there are numerous products underway, and some of them promising, the idea of underwater exploration without a tank needs a few more years to become a reality.
The Amphibio, for example, might face some challenges coming to market, but it does show some promise. Even if the Amphibio doesn’t make it to market, the concept will allow inventors to fine-tune, test, and continue to develop until the idea of underwater
breathing is no longer futuristic – it is part of life.