Omer, a basalt composite submarine driven by human power, has set world speed records at the international competitions before.
A pedal-powered submarine, it may seem like a child’s play. However, it is well-established organizations and companies that are concerned with planning and oversight for this kind of competitions. So, this fact makes us take a fresh look at them. Turn-based, International races for human-powered submarines are held in the US and Europe.
Hosted by the Naval Surface Warfare Center, the International Submarine Race (ISR) takes place under the auspices of the Foundation for Underwater Research and Education (FURE).
The European International Submarine Race (EISR) is organized by the IMarEST, the international institute and scientific foundation that unites marine engineers, scientists and technologists. The competition is sponsored mainly by companies from the defense sector.
The next EISR will take place July 3-12, 2018 in Gosport, England. Omer submarine has already registered for participation. Omer 5, a submarine of this series won the world speed record for human-powered two-person submarines in 2007.
In 2009, Omer 6 set a world record in the category of non-propeller one-person subs, and in 2013 Omer 8 became a world record holder in the class of propeller one-person subs.
A series of Omer submarines is developed by a team from Ecole de Technologie Superieure (School of Higher Technology in Montreal, attached to Quebec University). From a model to model, designers (they are also developers and pilots) try to improve hydrodynamic properties and the system of power units that transmit the force obtained by pedaling to propulsion systems.
The designers decided against glass fiber combined with balsa and started to leverage basalt fiber strengthened with an outer layer of carbon fiber. The team explained the decision to use basalt fabrics as a main structural material for the submarine as follows:
«The choice of the fiber to be used was one of the first steps in designing the hull. In fact, the fiber properties have greatly influenced it. Several options were considered, such as carbon fiber, fiber glass, INEGRA(polyester carbon) and the basalt fiber. Each type of fiber has its advantage and disadvantage.
Carbon has the advantage of being extremely durable while being relatively light, but at a high price. Fiberglass is weaker, but much cheaper. INEGRA for its part has a good impact resistance while having some of the properties of the carbon fiber. Finally, basalt has a strength between glass and carbon fiber, for a near fiber glass price. However, the availability of this fiber is rare and the weaving choice is more limited.
For economic reasons, the basalt fiber was the chosen solution. Actually, it has a good ratio price/strength.»
The team usually takes winning places at the competitions, designing submarines in various categories. Omer 9 was designed to take part in a category of propeller two-person submarines. Omer X is created as a non-propeller one-person submarine. Omer 11 will be the first hybrid submarine having two different propulsion systems: propeller and non-propeller to be changed between the races.
The holders of the European and American competitions emphasize that their events are not joint. However, they have the common goals: to challenge global talented youth: mathematicians, designers, engineers and technologists. In addition, the competitions of such a type provide a platform for hands-on testing of new technologies, materials, solutions and application methods.