Scientists from the US Naval Surface Warfare Center in Panama City (NSWC PC) have developed a new diver life-support system prototype to enhance safety.
The new semi-closed system will enable quick deployment of navy divers, help increase safety, and conserve the mixed gas atmosphere.
NSWC PC principal investigator Dr John Camperman said: "This new, semi-closed system was conceived to drastically reduce helium requirements.
"And where possible we also incorporated proven technology in the system in order to speed transition to operators."
The existing US Navy diving and salvage units use the fly-away mixed gas system (FMGS) that provides breathing gas through an umbilical to a demand regulated, open-circuit, diver-worn helmet.
However, the FMGS allows a large amount of oxygen and helium to be wasted as all inhalation in every breathing cycle is from surface supplied gas and all the exhalant is aired out into the sea.
The new system has been developed as a part of the initial response diving (IRD) project, which is a navy innovative science and engineering initiative for faster recovery of objects in deep waters.
Camperman added: "The new system modifies the current helmet and rebreather. Prototype analysis and testing have shown that drastic reduction in helium consumption is possible.
"Testing of the new prototype system indicates that the full range of FMGS diving is supportable within navy life support requirements, and that several life support characteristics are improved, including extended emergency come-home gas duration."
The IRD project could help in supporting critical rescues for survivors trapped in a capsized hull or subsea infrastructure maintenance.
The project could also help in the enhancement of the assessment of disabled submarine, escape or in the speedy recovery of sensitive debris from vessels, aircraft or spacecraft.
Image: A prototype for a new life support system for divers is displayed on a mannequin at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Panama City. Photo: courtesy of US Navy, photo by Anthony Powers/Released.