The days and weeks pass, and oil continues to blast upwards from the bottom of the Gulf. And as time marches on, we continue to receive submissions from you about how to stop the gushing oil and protect the coastline. Because of the importance and magnitude of this disaster, and because we want to keep you apprised of various InnoCentive activity around this Challenge, we are glad to share during the coming weeks the details of several key solutions and ideas we’ve received from you. Today’s post is a summary of a submission by Michael White.
Michael White, of Templeman Automation, proposes pneumatic barriers made of sintered rubber aeration tubing. Such tubing is available for aquaculture applications at about $1/ft, making rapid deployment of long-baseline (>1000ft) pneumatic barriers cost-effective. It can be made of recycled materials, and does not suffer reduced efficiency from salinity encountered by traditional bubblers. Specifically, the strength, flexibility, and low drag of sintered bubblers make them well suited for towed applications in which a shipboard compressor provides air to a trailing bubbler system. Such a mobile system has advantages in three depth regimes:
- Surface – Towed bubbler arrays provide mobile platforms for “corralling” moving oil as more permanent barriers are devised; adapting to immediate ocean current and wind conditions. Templeman Automation has tested aeration array systems with up to 1000cfm air flow at over 8 knots.
- Mid-Water – The depth of the towed bubbler system can be adjusted such that oil suspended in the water column is above the array and thus entrained in the rising bubble plume. Oil is thereby forced to the surface for remediation.
- Sea Floor – Towed bubblers can be used to “suction” oil from the sea floor, providing a non-contact pressure gradient that is gentle to sea-floor habitats. The small bubbles created by aeration tube systems transfer beneficial dissolved-oxygen to affected sea-floor ecosystems.
Michael White, Templeman Automation