CSIRO, the Australian national science agency, has combined forces with QinetiQ to investigate how submarines can stay submerged for longer while using less power and improving conditions on board.
Crucially, this cutting-edge technology could potentially be integrated into the Australian Government’s Future Submarines Programme, SEA1000 – the largest and most complex military programme ever undertaken in Australia.
SEA1000 will require the design and construction in Adelaide of 12 advanced submarines, each with a range of 33,000 kilometres with the ability to operate independently for up to 80 days.
Together, we’ll be testing whether advanced materials known as Metal-Organic Frameworks (MOFs) can allow submarines to remain submerged longer,” commented CSIRO Project Leader and Associate Professor Matthew Hill.
“MOFs have the largest internal surface area of any known substance, which can be optimised to capture gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2). The more CO2 MOFs can capture and store, the longer a submarine can potentially remain underwater, undetected.”
Submarines are enclosed spaces, meaning CO2 expelled by the crew builds up and can eventually become toxic. Carbon dioxide scrubbers remedy this by removing CO2 from a submarine’s atmosphere and storing it for release later on.
Current CO2 scrubbers take up an inordinate amount of the space, weight and power however. They can also generate corrosive by-products, which have health and sustainment implications in the close confines of a submarine. But a MOFs based system would use a smaller amount of space, placing less demand on a submarine’s systems without relying on harmful gases.
QinetiQ Australia Managing Director Greg Barsby concluded: “If proven, MOFs could give Australian submarines an edge: a performance advantage that lets them dive longer while placing less demand on a submarines precious space and weight, as well as critical systems such as power.
“We’re focused on creating real capability gains for the Australian Defence Forces. This project plays to both partners’ strengths, our decades of experience and expertise in submarine operations and atmospheres; plus CSIRO’s unmatched and patented ability to make MOFs in large volumes, cheaply and with great precision.”
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