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Sample Essay on Technology: Submarines
It is common to hear that we have learned more about the moon than we know about the ocean. Technological limitations restricted researchers from exploring the deep ocean and finding discoveries. The invention of the submarine, however, made exploring the deep ocean possible. This paved way for exciting discoveries and the expansion of human influence on Earth. Researchers use submarines as vessels to navigate harsh deep-sea environments while defense forces use them as vehicles to safeguard territories and keep the peace. Understanding the functionality, parts, and utilization of submarines can help individuals appreciate the contribution of this technology to human progress.
How do submarines function?
Submarines are complex inventions that will only function properly if it follows certain physical laws. Unlike ships and boats that have many forms and variants, most submarines follow specific structures to maintain stability when navigating dangerous environments. They follow a cylindrical shape that houses various complex parts that are necessary to control buoyancy and survive high-pressure environments. Two of the most important physical laws that a submarine must follow are Archimedes’ Principle and Boyle’s Law (marinebio.org, n.d.). These principles refer to buoyant forces and ocean pressure which are integral factors in the functionality of submarines.
Archimedes’ Principle is about buoyancy and its effect on an object in the water. An object that is heavier than the weight of its displaced water will sink while an object that is lighter than the displaced water will float (physics.weber.edu, n.d.). Every sea vessel, from simple rafts to nuclear-powered submarines, follows this principle to remain buoyant. Ships, boats, and other vehicles that stay on the water’s surface retain constant buoyancy since they only move horizontally with respect to the sea or ocean. Submarines, however, require the manipulation of buoyant forces to rise or sink to their desired depth. Submarines utilize ballast tanks to take in or release seawater, causing either positive or negative buoyancy.
Boyle’s Law refers to the relationship between pressure and volume and its effect on confined gases. The law states that as pressure increases the volume of the confined gas will decrease. This is similar to a piston putting pressure on a volume of gas which forces the volume to decrease (Hall, 2021). This law is important for submarines because of the high pressures present below the ocean. As submarines dive deep below normal levels, pressure against the vehicle will increase which can potentially decrease the volume of oxygen. The structure of a submarine, however, prevents outside pressure from affecting the condensed air. The steel body along with its cylindrical shape protects the air inside the submarine from decreasing in volume.
What are the parts of a submarine?
Aside from adhering to physical laws, the parts of a submarine make it possible for the technology to function. The most important parts of a submarine are the sail, planes, periscope, ballast tanks, hulls, engines, navigation systems, life support, and weapons. The sail, which is a large protruding part on top of the submarines, contains the periscope, radio antenna, sailplanes, and conning tower. The sail helps in maintaining vertical stability, acts as an observation platform, and as an entry and exit point.
Periscope and Conning Tower
The periscope, which is in the sail, acts as an observation tool. Sailors inside the submarine can peek through the scope and get a clear view of the surface. The periscope, however, has a length limitation which requires the submarine to be at a certain depth level for the scope to be usable. The conning tower, which is directly inside the sail, is the control center of a submarine (actforlibraries.org, n.d.). This is where the captain will steer the vessel, monitor conditions, and control operating systems. Additionally, the periscope directly connects to the conning tower, allowing easier access and navigation.
Sailplanes and Stern Planes
The sailplanes, which are on the side of the sial, control the submarine’s pitch. The pitch is the upward and downward movement of the vessel. The sail planes’ counterparts, which are the stern planes, are on the back of the submarine. These planes also control the pitch of the submarine but from the tail. The rudder, which is also on the tail, controls the yaw or the left and right movement of the submarine. Efficient control of these parts is necessary to maintain stable movement and avoid sudden changes in pitch. Some submarines, however, have bow planes instead of sailplanes (marinebio.org, n.d.). Bow planes are on the front side or “bow” of the vessel instead of the sail and have a similar function.
Outer Hull and Pressure Hull
The sails, planes, and periscope are all part of the submarine’s outer hull. This layer is waterproof and helps maintain stability as well as security from high-pressure environments. Inside the outer hull is the pressure hull which is the most important and strongest part of the vessel (actoflibraries.org). This hull protects the submarine from the increasing pressure and prevents the air inside the vessel to condense. Engineers utilize specific materials for the pressure hull, such as HY-80 and molybdenum, to guarantee sturdy vessels. This is the main protection of a submarine from pressure while the outer hull acts as an extra layer.
Between the outer hull and pressure hull are the ballast tanks. These tanks are responsible for releasing and taking in seawater to control the submarine’s buoyancy. A submarine cannot rise nor sink without the help of ballast tanks. Additionally, there are the trim tanks, which are special ballast tanks on the bow and stern of a submarine. These tanks specifically control the rise and sink of the bow and stern. They are also important for maintaining the “trim condition” which is a state of perfect balance in the submarine (marinebio.org, n.d.). The condition requires the vessel to maintain perfect balance to prevent instability and loss of control. Sailors can use the trim tanks to release or take in water, which will help maintain the balance.
A submarine, like any other machine, requires an engine to function. The engine will be the vessel’s source of power and will provide energy to maintain operations. Throughout the history of submarines, some vessels have utilized steam engines, gasoline engines, batteries, electric motors, and nuclear power. Engineers, however, stopped using steam engines, batteries, and gasoline engines because of their insufficiency and risks (marinebio.org, n.d.). Modern submarines mostly use diesel engines or nuclear power since they are reliable and allow vessels to remain underwater longer.
Since submarines do not have windows as ways to look at directions, they rely on navigation systems and the periscope. Periscope, as mentioned before, has limited use due to its length and is unreliable for certain depths. Sailors then use navigation systems, such as GPS, SONAR, and inertial guidance systems to locate the position of the submarine and its distance towards a point (actforlibraries.org). These navigation systems are important to the vessels since sailors cannot see underwater nor can they prepare to avoid obstructions.
Life Support and Weapons
The invention of nuclear-powered submarines allows sailors to remain underwater for several months. Nuclear power allows the submarine to create oxygen and remove carbon dioxide. Sailors can also convert seawater into freshwater which further improves the quality of life inside the vessel. Older submarines are incapable of these and would need to resurface to resupply oxygen and food. Modern submarines, especially ones that the army use, also possess weapons like torpedos and nuclear missiles. The army uses them mostly for defending territories but may also become tools for war.
What is the purpose of submarines?
A submarine’s main purpose is to be a means of traveling underwater. Researchers can use them to explore deep-sea areas and remain underwater for a long period. One example is when the American Navy sponsored a SCICEX mission to gather data in the Arctic Ocean in the 1990s (Meade et al., 2001). In 1969, the submarine NR-1 became a tool to recover sunken Soviet submarines and missiles as well as aid in scientific research (americanhistory.si.edu, n.d.). These examples are just some of the earlier utilization of submarines that showcases their significance to science.
Countries, however, found a way to weaponize submarines and use them to wage war. This was the case during World War 1 and World War 2 when armies engaged in submarine warfare. In World War 1, the British and the Germans took down warships with their submarines and torpedoes which led to the “unrestricted submarine warfare” (iwm.org.uk, n.d.). The effect of this tactic remained until the modern-day which led to nuclear missile-armed submarines. This weaponization gave submarines the purpose of becoming necessary defense tools to protect territories near water.
Submarines allow humans to travel to underwater areas which would have been impossible to reach. Individuals, however, can overlook the importance and contributions of this technology easily. They may be unaware of the scientific principles that submarines use to function, the different parts that operate in unison to power the vessels or their purpose as a tool for research and defense. Submarines symbolize the ingenuity of the human mind as well as their stubbornness regarding war.
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Americanhistory.si.edu. (n.d.). Exploring the Submarine Environment. Available at https://americanhistory.si.edu/subs/work/exploring/research/index.html. Accessed April 28, 2022.
Hall, N. (2021). Boyle’s Law. NASA. Available at https://www.grc.nasa.gov/www/k-12/airplane/boyle.html. Accessed April 28, 2022.
Iwm.org.uk. (n.d.). Voices of the First World War: The Submarine War. Imperial War Museum. Available at https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/voices-of-the-first-world-war-the-submarine-war, Accessed May 1, 2022.
Marinebio.org. (n.d.). Submarines & Deep Technology. Marine Bio. Available at https://www.marinebio.org/creatures/tools/submarines/. Accessed April 28, 2022.
Meade, C., Lempert, R., Timson, F., and Kadtke, J. (2001). Assessing the Benefits and Costs of a Science Submarine. Apps.dtic.mil. Available at https://apps.dtic.mil/sti/pdfs/ADA393743.pdf. Accessed April 28, 2022.
Physics.weber.edu. (n.d.). Archimedes’ Principle. Available at https://physics.weber.edu/carroll/archimedes/principle.htm, Accessed April 28, 2022.