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Hyperbaric Testing of an Alternative Approach to Remove Carbon Dioxide From Underwater Life Support Equipment

[+] Author Affiliations
M. Nuckols

Duke University, Durham, NC

S. Kolaczkowski, S. Awdry

University of Bath, Bath, UK

T. Smith, D. Thomas

S&C Thermofluids Ltd., Bath, UK

Paper No. OMAE2014-23028, pp. V08AT06A003; 9 pages
  • ASME 2014 33rd International Conference on Ocean, Offshore and Arctic Engineering
  • Volume 8A: Ocean Engineering
  • San Francisco, California, USA, June 8–13, 2014
  • Conference Sponsors: Ocean, Offshore and Arctic Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4550-9
  • Copyright © 2014 by ASME


Traditional CO2 absorption methods for underwater life support equipment use alkali metal hydroxide chemical beds — mostly calcium hydroxide — that have been shown to have poor absorption efficiencies at cold temperatures, and must be replaced at considerable trouble and expense on a frequent basis. With chemical utilizations as low as 20% in water temperatures of 2°C, these hydroxides do not lend themselves to applications requiring extended durations in cold water due to the inability to carry sufficient quantities of expendables. A joint research effort between Duke University and the University of Bath has verified the feasibility in laboratory trials of an alternative carbon dioxide removal method that intimately mixes seawater with breathing circuit gases within a packed bed of Dixon rings. Based on the results of these laboratory trials, two multi-path scrubber prototypes were designed and fabricated for unmanned testing. In March 2013, the hyperbaric performance of these prototype scrubbers was characterized over a wide range of gas and water flow rates when operating the scrubbers in counter-current (water flowing in the opposite direction as gas flow) and co-current (water flowing in the same direction as gas flow) fashion. Significant findings from these tests included the following:

• Both scrubber prototypes were found to be capable of delivering exit CO2 levels below 0.5 vol% (surface equivalent) at respiratory rates up to 22.5 liters per minute and at depths ranging from 0 to 40 meters of seawater (MSW).

• Negligible collateral O2 absorption was observed at surface pressure (exit O2 levels were typically above 20.2 vol%), and exit O2 levels were typically above 18.4% during testing at 10 MSW.

• At surface pressure, both prototypes had significantly lower breathing resistances than design goals established by the U. S. Navy.

Copyright © 2014 by ASME



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