Science & Tech

Getting an underwater grip

The latest update in diving suit technology
  • Jun 30, 2012
  • 353 words
  • 2 minutes
Expand Image
Advertisement

Phil Nuytten just can’t stop looking for ways to improve things. Barely three months after unveiling his latest creation, the Exosuit, the Vancouverbased inventor is already working on ways to make it even better.

So how do you improve a dive suit that can operate at depths of more than 300 metres, comes with a self-contained life-support system and has four 1.6-horsepower thrusters, an HD camera and sonar? Simple — just add hands.

Nuytten is aiming to attach another of his creations, an articulated mechanical three-fingered “hand” called the Prehensor, to the Exosuit. The prostheticlike device mimics the human hand and would provide a greater level of dexterity than the suit’s current pliers-style grips or bulky gloves.

“We plan to install it on the Exosuit next year,” says Nuytten, adding that the device could also be used in other extreme environments. “It’s a system that could potentially be placed in spacesuit gloves. With those, it takes a lot of strength to close the fingers, and as soon as you relax, the whole thing pops open again, since the whole suit is pressurized like a big balloon.”

Expand Image
Henry Larsen made his first voyage through the Northwest Passage in two years starting in June 1940; he completed the route in 86 days the second time around. (Map: Chris Brackley/Canadian Geographic)

Nuytten is already looking ahead to an electronic version of the Prehensor, one that could provide sensory feedback, such as weight, pressure and feel to the hand controlling it. And he’d like to eventually add flippers to the Exosuit to increase its mobility.

Nuytten, whose previous creations include the Newtsuit (an earlier version of the Exosuit) and the submarine rescue system Remora, knows that sometimes it can take years before ideas are made whole (the Exosuit took 10), especially when you have a successful undersea technology business to run.

“We’re making submarines and doing contracting for diving all over the world, so it doesn’t leave much time to work on inventions,” he says. “It’s been kind of on the back burner, but we make baby steps every year.”

Advertisement

Related Content

teachers caring for students sick with the Spanish Flu

History

La grande faucheuse

L’histoire méconnue de la grippe espagnole de 1918 et notre état de préparation à la prochaine grande pandémie

  • 3647 words
  • 15 minutes

Science & Tech

UN declares International Day of Women in Science

From Roberta Bondar to Harriet Brooks, Canada has more than its fair share of women scientists to be proud of. However women are still a minority in the STEM fields

  • 472 words
  • 2 minutes
Glacier on Svalbard, Norway

Kids

Hearts in the Ice: Citizen Science

From phytoplankton to drones, citizen science in the remote Svalbard wilderness is contributing to research around the world

  • 1312 words
  • 6 minutes
A woman squats on a beach and holds a rock close to her face.

Science & Tech

The puzzle of plastic: Turning to science to solve our recycling dilemma

Environmental entrepreneur Miranda Wang turns to science to seek profitable solutions to the problem of what to do with our mountains of plastic waste

  • 2081 words
  • 9 minutes