For the past 70 years, the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory has conducted ocean research and engineering.
Now they are teaming up with a local submersible company to build an innovative five-person submarine that would travel to almost 2 miles below the ocean’s surface.
When completed in 2016, it will be the first deep-sea manned submersible project for the UW.
“What a terrific asset for the UW to have access to one of the few available manned submarines in the U.S.,” said principal investigator Robert Miyamoto, who directs the lab’s industry and defense programs. “If someday students routinely had the opportunity to go on a manned sub I think the research in deep-ocean science would explode.”
The submarine, named Cyclops, has a carbon-fiber hull that can take passengers to 3,000 meters (9,842 feet) – deeper than all but a handful of existing subs.
“Most people don’t appreciate there are not very many private or commercial subs,” said Stockton Rush, CEO of OceanGate Inc., an Everett, Wash., company that charters submarines. He says there are about 600 military subs worldwide, but only about 100 certified civilian subs, and most of those are on private yachts or in storage.
For the past year and a half, members of Miyamoto’s team have leased a campus lab with OceanGate. The group has gone through more than 20 prototype designs before settling on the recently unveiled plan.
The carbon-fiber hull is shaped like a bullet that can plunge down to depth in less than 60 minutes. Once the vessel reaches depth, it rotates to its cruising orientation. The passenger seats pivot in order to stay upright.
The Boeing Company worked with OceanGate and the UW on initial design analysis of the 7-inch-thick pressure vessel. The design uses a strategy where each strip of carbon fiber and resin is precisely placed to ensure that there will be no gaps or weak points. The battery will be a lithium-polymer design that will also make the sub lighter and able to dive longer and faster than traditional subs.
The front viewing area, for which the vehicle is named, is designed as a 5-foot-wide dome of 4-inch-thick glass. Passengers will sit inside the dome to have a 180-degree view.
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