From Shanghai to San Francisco in 100 minutes, all underwater

  If you dream of making it from San Francisco to Shanghai, China in 100 minutes, Chinese scientists think they might have found the solution,…
From Shanghai to San Francisco in 100 minutes, all underwater

Supercavitation is a technology that has been researched for years. It may now hold the key to ultrafast submarine transport of human beings. (Cortesía del SCMP)

If you dream of making it from San Francisco to Shanghai, China in 100 minutes, Chinese scientists think they might have found the solution, after three years of intensely studying a technology called supercavitation.

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According to the “South China Morning Post,” the technology allows submarine travel at supersonic speeds by creating a sort of bubble around the vessel as it travels, avoiding friction with the surrounding water.

“We are very excited by its potential,” said Professor Li Fengchen, who studies fluid machinery and engineering.

He is positive that his team’s approach has come up with the method to create the air “bubble” required for the rapid underwater travel.

Supercavitation has been studied since the days of the Cold War by both the Soviet Union and the United States, even though results of this magnitude had never been announced. Until now, studies had been focused on increasing the speed at which torpedoes traveled, but debugging the technology it’s possible to achieve speeds similar to planes, but in the water—reaching the speed of sound at 3,604 miles per hour.

There is one minor inconvenience: The technology does not allow maneuvering underwater, as you can only travel in a straight line, and launch speeds are quite extreme.

According to Professor Li, his team of researchers has been, “combining a liquid membrane technology with supercavitation, we managed to break through the challenges of launching during the cruise.”

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), one of the most secretive defense technology research arms of the U.S. government, has been working for years on supercavitation. According to the news wire agency UPI, the U.S. naval forces have experimented with the technology, as well as Russia. Until now they’ve had minor success with small vehicles of transport, but until now no one has been able to apply the science to larger forms of transportation.

Li affirms that the technology will not only have military applications, but in the future it would definitely advance human transportation using underwater methods. It can also change the face of water sports, including competitive swimming.

 “If we create a swimsuit with lots of little bubbles, we can reduce friction against the water; swimming would be as easy as flying for a bird,” said Li.

One can only hope.

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