Buoyancy Generation: Various technology attempts include melting a wax, which pushes directly against a piston (U.S. Patent 5,291,847) or against a bladder (Webb Research), using ammonia or Freon 21 (U.S. Patent 5,303,552), and using solar heat to expand an oil (www.space.com, April, 10, 2002). All these heat-activated buoyancy control designs have thus far proved impractical and have ultimately failed during repeated cycling in ocean testing. JPL has demonstrated fully reversible 10 C encapsulated wax phase change, which can be used to change buoyancy without electrical hydraulic pumps. This technique has greatly improved heat transfer and much better reversibility than previous designs. Power Generation: Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) systems have been designed that transfer deep, cold sea water to the surface to generate electricity using turbine cycles with ammonia or water as the working fluid. JPL has designed several UUV systems: 1) Using a propeller water turbine to generate power on a gliding submersible; 2) Employing a compact CO2 turbine cycle powered by moving through thermoclines; and 3) Using melted wax to directly produce power through a piston-geared generator.
Fluid Mechanics and Thermodynamics
ONR Joint Review of Unmanned Systems Technology Development; Feb 10, 2006; Panama City, FL; United States