How does the submarine produce oxygen?

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How does the submarine produce oxygen
How does the submarine produce oxygen
A (photo: scienceabc.com)

Forcesproject.com – Living hundred meters below the ocean's surface, being away from all of the bustle of life, surrounded by nothing other than saltwater and an unsettling silence. These all sounds like a perfect combination for a fabulous and thrilling adventure. In fact, that is only a brief description of what life is like in a submarine. Some of you have probably known that submarine is a special ship that is designed to function underwater without any external support. The most remarkable one is that it spends months without emerging to the surface. This notion leads to an important question of how do the crew members obtain oxygen as the most crucial elements to survive?

If you are curious to the above question, see the discussion in the article below!

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As we know that people can probably spend days without water, but having no oxygen within few minutes might lead to serious consequences. Submarine, as a huge closed tube without a good air circulation and having no plants to recycle CO2, how could it maintain the atmosphere? the atmosphere inside the submarine is carefully monitored and controlled using sophisticated technologies.

How does the submarine produce oxygen?

Oxygen onboard a submarine is released either through compressed tanks, an oxygen generator, or by some form of an ‘oxygen canister' that works through the electrolysis. The oxygen is regularly released at specific time or at any time when the computerized systems detects any reduction in the oxygen level. Actually, normally oxygen concentration is slightly lower in the submarine compared to the land. This allows the risk reduction of any spreading fires.

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How does the submarine produce oxygen
A basic representation of a scrubber's components and mechanism (image: scienceabc.com)

It is important to note that breathing is a two-way process including: inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. While staying in the open space, we do not need to worry about the carbon dioxide that we exhale. Unfortunately, within a closed tub, the carbon dioxide we exhale can pose a severe problem to our survival if it is not discharged periodically. Consequently, in order to provide oxygen, it is also critical to remove the carbon dioxide that is continuously produced.

The process take place with the assistance of soda lime in devices which is called ‘Scrubbers'. Soda lime is a mixture of sodium hydroxide and calcium hydroxide, that is used to get rid of carbon dioxide from the environment to prevent CO2 poisoning. These chemicals absorb CO2 when they are cold and release it once they are heated up. Waste CO2 is released into the sea whenever it's possible. However, these amines do have an unpleasant smell, but people who work in submarines say that they can get used to that smell.

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Lastly, if you work in a submarine, you have to get used to a various smells. Living compartments are tight and not that well ventilated. You can smell food being prepared, hydraulic oil, amines, trash and so on. Unfortunately, you can't open a window for a fresh air, because there aren't any available!

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