Science World September 1, 2014 : Page 18

EARTH SCIENCE: Oceans // PHYSICS: Pressure // BIOLOGY: Human Body A new personal diving machine is set to revolutionize ocean exploration TETHER A 380-meter (1,250-foot) fiber-optic cable connects the Exosuit to a ship. The cable powers the suit, transmits live video to the ship, and allows the diver to communicate with people at the surface. S OXYGEN SUPPLY Two tanks hold enough oxygen to provide up to 50 hours of life support. cientists who explore the depths of the ocean have a new high-tech way to get there: the Exosuit. Despite its cumbersome look, the metal suit is flexible and super-sturdy—allowing divers to move freely in water up to 305 meters (1,000 feet) deep. Canadian engineers built the Exosuit to give divers a better alternative to ocean exploration than scuba diving or submersible vehicles. Deep water exerts a lot of pressure, and scuba divers have to descend and ascend very slowly to give their bodies time to adjust to the change. Traveling inside a pressurized submersible allows divers to descend faster and stay underwater longer, but divers can’t interact with anything outside. The Exosuit is tightly sealed to keep the pressure inside the same as above the water’s surface. But its limbs can still bend, so a diver can move around and pick things up. “You have the protection of a submers-ible, but you can actually reach out and be part of the environment,” says Michael Lombardi, one of the first divers to test the suit in a tank on land. This year, Lombardi and a team of scientists will explore underwater canyons off the coast of New England. Eventually, the suit could help scientists explore shipwrecks, study underwater geology, and discover deep-water organisms. — Mara Grunbaum HELMET Sensors monitor the suit’s air pressure and oxygen levels. A teardrop-shaped window gives the diver a wide view in all directions, including down toward the suit’s feet. ILLUSTRATION: MAGICTORCH LTD

Deep-Sea Suit

A new personal diving machine is set to revolutionize ocean exploration

Scientists who explore the depths of the ocean have a new hightech way to get there: the Exosuit. Despite its cumbersome look, the metal suit is flexible and super-sturdy—allowing divers to move freely in water up to 305 meters (1,000 feet) deep.

Canadian engineers built the Exosuit to give divers a better alternative to ocean exploration than scuba diving or submersible vehicles. Deep water exerts a lot of pressure, and scuba divers have to descend and ascend very slowly to give their bodies time to adjust to the change. Traveling inside a pressurized submersible allows divers to descend faster and stay underwater longer, but divers can’t interact with anything outside.

The Exosuit is tightly sealed to keep the pressure inside the same as above the water’s surface. But its limbs can still bend, so a diver can move around and pick things up. “You have the protection of a submersible, but you can actually reach out and be part of the environment,” says Michael Lombardi, one of the first divers to test the suit in a tank on land.

This year, Lombardi and a team of scientists will explore underwater canyons off the coast of New England. Eventually, the suit could help scientists explore shipwrecks, study underwater geology, and discover deep-water organisms. — Mara Grunbaum

TETHER

A 380-meter (1,250-foot) fiber-optic cable connects the Exosuit to a ship. The cable powers the suit, transmits live video to the ship, and allows the diver to communicate with people at the surface.

OXYGEN SUPPLY

Two tanks hold enough oxygen to provide up to 50 hours of life support

HELMET

Sensors monitor the suit’s air pressure and oxygen levels. A teardrop-shaped window gives the diver a wide view in all directions, including down toward the suit’s feet.

MANIPULATORS

Attachable tools such as a gripping claw or a suction tube help the diver pick up objects and collect samples to carry back to the surface.

JOINTS

Eighteen rotating joints on the suit’s arms and legs give the diver the flexibility to move around. Oil sealed inside the joints reduces friction, or resistance to movement.

SHELL

The Exosuit’s hard outer casing is molded from an alloy, or mixture, of aluminum and other elements. The suit weighs 240 kilograms (530 pounds) but feels much lighter in the water.

THRUSTERS

Four thrusters shoot jets of water to propel the diver forward, backward, left, right, up, or down.

HATCH

The Exosuit separates at the torso so the diver can step into it like a pair of pants. This opening is sealed tightly during a dive.

FOOT PEDALS

The diver steers using pressure-sensitive foot pedals in the bottom of the suit.

CORE QUESTION

What limitations of previous diving methods did engineers overcome by building the Exosuit?

Read the full article at http://browndigital.bpc.com/article/Deep-Sea+Suit/1757237/216717/article.html.

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