High Pressure Composite Air Flasks for SCUBA Systems
Navy SBIR FY2013.1

Sol No.: Navy SBIR FY2013.1
Topic No.: N131-058
Topic Title: High Pressure Composite Air Flasks for SCUBA Systems
Proposal No.: N131-058-0898
Firm: Luna Innovations Incorporated
1 Riverside Circle
Suite 400
Roanoke, Virginia 24016-4962
Contact: Daniel Metrey
Phone: (540) 961-4509
Web Site: www.lunainnovations.com
Abstract: Current air flasks utilized by the Navy for SCUBA diving weigh about 40 lbs and are rated for 3,000 psi internal pressure, providing 30 minutes to an hour of air supply from a single tank. The Navy desires to increase mission capability for free-swimming divers, but air supply remains the most significant impediment to this goal. Development of smaller air flasks and a regulator system that could accommodate up to 10,000 psi of internal air pressure is sought. However, flasks manufactured using similar materials to those currently in service would be far too heavy and bulky if fabricated to meet this pressure. Lighter weight materials are required. Luna Innovations Incorporated will team with a leading commercial producer of DOT approved composite air flasks to design a flask and regulator system to meet the Navy's desired criteria. The manufacturer's extensive experience in the design and manufacture of flasks for DoD, including underwater applications, will be leveraged with Luna's novel optical fiber strain sensing technology to streamline design. Weight savings will be optimized by intimately calibrating measured material response to design models. Furthermore, this non-intrusive sensing system will enable a means of health monitoring, reducing operational risk and maintenance costs.
Benefits: The desire for smaller, lighter air flasks that can deliver higher volume of air is not just limited to the Navy. Almost any application requiring air storage will benefit from the use high volume, lightweight flasks. Applications include alternative fuel, aviation, cryo structures, home oxygen therapy, SCBA, SCUBA, paintball and various others. The use of composite materials for the manufacturing of air flasks has been demonstrated. However, composite material properties are not as well understood as more traditional materials and are highly dependent upon fiber orientation and other factors. Thus, composite structures are often over designed, greatly exceeding specified design factors of safety with a sacrifice to added weight. Use of high fidelity design correlation tools, such as Luna's optical fiber sensing technology can help optimize weight savings. In addition, the optical fiber sensors can enable health monitoring, potentially identifying damage, and may eventually reduce the frequency of required hydrotesting. Initially the target of this research will be for Navy diving flask systems, but these systems and the optical fiber sensing will have a far ranging impact across numerous industries.