Technology Could Help Subs Travel Across Pacific in Less Than 2 Hours

New technology developed by scientists in China could lead to a super-fast submarine that can travel more than 3,000 miles per hour.
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New technology developed by scientists in China could lead to a super-fast submarine that can travel more than 3,000 miles per hour.
submarine

Photo Credit: SCMP

Scientists from China may have found a way to travel from Shanghai to San Francisco in less than two hours. Researchers from the Harbin Institute of Technology say that their method can exceed the speed of sound underwater at 3,600 miles per hour. The technology would be used in submarines and torpedoes. 

The idea was inspired by a Soviet concept called supercavitation. This means creating large air bubbles around individual objects to avoid facing friction, allowing objects to travel through water much faster. 

[Related Story: Japan and U.S. to Develop Fuel-Cell Submarine]

When the submarine hits water, a mechanism continuously sprays what Professor Li Fengchen refers to as a "special liquid membrane" all over its surface. The liquid eventually washes off, but when the sub reaches 46 miles per hour, it is already going fast enough to enter a supercavitation state in which it generates an air bubble that helps it cover long distances.

"Our method is different from any other approach, such as vector propulsion," Li told the South China Morning Post (SCMP). "By combining liquid-membrane technology with supercavitation, we can significantly reduce the launch challenges and make cruising control easier."

This means, in theory, that the submarine could cross the Pacific Ocean in just 100 minutes, and a transatlantic trip would take less than an hour.

Before such a submarine becomes a reality, scientists would first have to figure out how to create precise steering controls and an engine that can withstand the entire system.

While the project is considered a military secret, Li said there are many benefits for the technology, including swimsuits.

"If a swimsuit can create and hold many tiny bubbles in water, it can significantly reduce the water drag; swimming in water could be as effortless as flying in the sky,” he said.

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