Breathing underwater without the help of bulky equipment seems unrealistic. At least how unrealistic human flight must have appeared on the eve of Kitty Hawk.
It must be what the designer thought Jun kamei when in 2018 he made Amphibio, a 3D printed wearable accessory that acts as an artificial gill for breathing underwater without tanks. It is not a mask for breathing underwater. It's just a whole breathing system.
From his intuition one day an alternative way of breathing underwater could really arise for humans.
Kamei, a graduate of the Royal College, has developed an artistic collaboration with the RCA-IIS design laboratory in Tokyo. The result is what you see in the picture. The artificial gill is futuristic and “stylish”. When we say "breathe design".
In the project presentation web pages you can read the genesis of the concept. "I was observing how the future of our urban environment will change with global warming and I have been deeply interested in the figures for sea level rise, and how to breathe underwater."
Let's forget for a moment the apocalyptic vision (which seems inspired almost to the Miyazaki of 'Conan, boy of the future'): the object has its own dignity. These are real artificial gills. With a mask, breathing underwater is less elegant, do you agree? Usually you swim underwater, you don't breathe.
Amphibio is a two-part 3D printed garment: a sort of vest and a proper mask made of “super hydrophobic” (or extremely water repellent) material that extracts oxygen from the surrounding water and dissipates carbon dioxide.
Amphibio it is a working prototype, not a simple aesthetic exercise: it has even been tested by swimming and exercising in an aquarium pool. This underwater breathing mask does exactly what it was born for. Yes, it theoretically allows breathing underwater. That is: it is not like breathing water, they are not like fish gills, but almost.
Of course, the proper functioning of the device does not imply that it is currently sufficient for human respiration.
Despite the improvements in recent months, artificial gills would have to be 32 square meters large to have enough oxygen for a man to breathe underwater. Definitely larger than a couple of cylinders, isn't it? Who knows the difficulty of swimming with this giant sheet.
Kamei has a culprit in mind for this stalemate: us. “The difficulty is our large oxygen consumption. We humans consume too much. Even if the oxygen is dissolved in the water, the rate that has to be absorbed when swimming through the gill is enormous, which requires a very large surface gill, ”said the designer.
Quite right. If we were rodents it would have been easier to breathe in the water, damn us who are human. Beginners!
Recent developments of its concept, still little publicized, speculate on the improvement of performance obtainable with the use of membranes in nanomaterials: instead of increasing the extension of the gills it will be possible to improve the absorption of oxygen and thus obtain breathing in water.
While waiting for the improvement of 3D printing techniques and materials engineering to make Anfibio a sustainable project to breathe underwater, I am sure that this sage will soon find use. Other than masks for breathing underwater: gills will affect the recreational sector, or maybe in the military one.