Limerick student’s scuba gear alternative wins James Dyson Award

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Express Dive

A lightweight underwater-breathing system has won the prestigious 2015 Irish James Dyson Award.

Invented by 26-year-old University of Limerick student Cathal Redmond, Express Dive allows divers to breathe underwater for up to two minutes. Once the air supply begins to run out, the user simply resurfaces and holds a button to refill the one-litre tank.

Redmond will receive a cheque from the James Dyson Foundation for €2,500 and proceed to the international stage of the competition, competing against students from 20 countries for the overall prize of €37,500 to develop his design.

The design overcomes the complexities of a scuba set-up by reducing the number and size of parts needed to breathe underwater, vastly reducing the weight and size of the breathing apparatus.

Unlike traditional snorkels, Express Dive allows the user to dive to much greater depths as it has its own separate air tank. Meanwhile a full scuba kit can cost in the region of €3,000, as opposed to an estimated €400 for Redmond’s device.

It was whilst on a holiday in Greece that Redmond, a keen scuba diver, concluded that there was a big gap between snorkelling masks and heavy scuba diving equipment.

“I was on a boat excursion when I saw a shiny object on the seabed. I wanted to be able to go a little further than I could with just my lungs, but of course I did not have scuba equipment with me.”

“I saw a need for something lighter, inexpensive and portable that everyone could use for leisure diving. Scuba equipment is bulky and expensive and the preparation process is rigorous and time-consuming. When your air runs out you are done until your next fill.”

The first model consisted of a bicycle pump, pressurised balloons and drinks bottles, with later versions incorporating an electric car tyre pump powered by a portable drill battery to compress the air. Redmond’s final prototype comprises of a compact air tank, an air regulator and a compressor combination made from high-density foam, aluminium and silicone.

An inbuilt battery drives the compressor to capture air and store it in the air tank. The air is then delivered to the diver in exactly the same way as a scuba system, in conjunction with a dive mask.

Redmond hopes to bring Express Dive to market in early 2017.

Four other Irish student inventions have been shortlisted to proceed to the international stage of the James Dyson award.

TechCentral Reporters

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