The Exosuit – Exploration in the Ocean’s Depths
Our planet has so many secrets that it has yet to reveal to us, and many of these are believed to reside in the deepest parts of the ocean. In order to completely understand the plant and animal life that resides there, marine biologists know that they have to interact with them in their environment. The ocean extends to beneath 10,000 ft. below sea level, and most scuba diving suits are only able to go about 100 ft. under. Even when suits enable divers to go under several hundred feet, they have to resurface within relatively short periods of time. This is because the human body is unable to withstand the pressure of the ocean above them for too long.
Engineers, working alongside marine biologists to overcome these obstacles, designed an Exosuit which enables trained divers to access depths of 1000 ft. The suit is composed from an aluminium alloy and looks very similar to a space suit, with a height of 6 ½ feet tall and a weight of 530 lbs. It is able to store enough oxygen for up to a 50 hour dive, and two-way communication is possible through a fibre-optic tether which also provides live video feed as well as monitoring the suit’s oxygen and pressure.
Divers are able to get in by an opening in the suit’s torso, which has a tear-dropped shaped view-port so that the pilot can see comfortably to chest level. The Exosuit is normally paired with a remote controlled vehicle to collect samples in areas which would previously have been impossible to reach. Its powerful led lights illuminate the darkness that’s expected at these depths and its pressure sensitive foot pads enable the pilot to control the thrusters to move forward, backwards, left and right or up and down.
On its maiden journey the suit was used to explore the mesopelagic zone where light is dim and pressure can be up to 30 times greater than at the surface. Found between 656 and 3280 feet underwater this zone consists mainly of bioluminescent and bio-fluorescent animals. Bioluminescence is the light created by living organisms by a chemical reaction in the creatures’ bodies, while bio-fluorescence is when an animal absorbs light which has short wave lengths (very dim) and reemits it in longer ones in order to guide them along the way.
The ability to study these animals in their natural habitats has led scientists to make remarkable discoveries about both the creatures and their environment. The Exosuit has also made a big difference in the exploration of underwater wrecks and the recovery of the items within. There is still a significant amount of work that is being done on it in order to enable access to greater depths in the near future.