Thesis Notebook: Air Supply Systems

As I’m researching on more things for my thesis (looking at the agency of air in the context of polluted environment), I’ve stumbled across a few interesting facts. One thing I did last week was to look at ways clean air is supplied or generated under different conditions. I decided to look at different system, which work at different altitudes ranging from -1,000 ft to 30,000 ft. So, here is a few interesting facts of how people survive in different altitudes — bear in mind that these are raw information and unfinished in many ways.

Air System-1

1. Space Shuttle / 0 to ~500 Km / Threshold Air.

The astronauts, typically consisted of 6 -7 people, can be in a mission ranging from a few weeks to one year. In a vehicle, where efficiency in terms of weight or load is such an important thing, bringing tons of oxygen supplies doesn’t become one of the options. The system used inside allows for the Carbon Dioxide (CO2) particles exhaled by the passengers to be filtered through a membrane, which will break it down into a set of cleaner CO2 particles into a degree, which is acceptable to inhale back.

Air System-2

2. Airplane / 0 to >30,000 ft / Borrowed Air.

The air on airplane is quite interesting as half of it comes from a clean conditioned air within the fuselage, but the other 50% is taken from the atmosphere around which it flies. At a very high altitude, the air is clean, that they are sucked through the wing vents and the airplane engines, before being diffused into the passengers space. The active system within the cabin also channels the air downwards, into the compartment’s shaft into an air return duct, instead of letting the air to go up to the cabin’s ceiling, i.e. the typical stack air effect.

Air System-5

3. House / 0 to 1000 ft / Waste Air.

The house is probably an internal space, where we typically spend ⅔ of our day in. A health scientist’s research argues that Americans spend 65% of their time inside their homes. Typical house will a main ventilation line, in a form of vertical pipe, that is connected to other pipes, e.g. drain pipes, soil stack, etc. Together they form a network of pipes to keep the odour and foul air outside the house.

Air System-3

4. Diving / 0 to >-200 ft / Reusable Air.

The divers or mountaineers typically have a re-breather system, that’s attached to their backpack or diving suit. These tanks are connected to a breathing hose, from which a mouthpiece goes into our body. The air the diver exhales is passed through a counter-lung system, before it’s going into the scrubber, i.e. for removing certain particulates from the air, and at the end of this line, an oxygen canister releases just enough fresh Oxygen content to be re-breathed by the diver.

Air System-4

5. Submarine / 0 to >-1000 ft (exact depth information classified) / Manufactured Air.

Similar to those of the re-breather  the submarine relies on a sequence of air filtration technique. It starts with a set of sensors that activate the dehumidifiers or fans system to pass the air into a scrubber system, before the oxygen hose is open to add fresh air into the mixture. However, another process at the scale of a matter works through an electrolysis method, i.e. water turned into O2. In this type of environment, where no views might be seen for up to 3 months, air is literally manufactured out of the transformation of energy and matter.


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