Using a unique design that creates a bubble of air around a vehicle, Chinese researchers are working on a submarine that can travel from Shanghai to San Francisco in under two hours.
Though the technology was first developed by the Russians during the Cold War, researchers at Harbin’s Complex Flow and Heat Transfer Lab are reportedly trying to figure out how to utilize the technology for a submarine. While Russian torpedoes utilize vector propulsion to achieve supercavitation (i.e. form a bubble of air around it), the Chinese are instead looking to coat a submarine in a special liquid that will achieve the same effect.
Navigation of the submarine would be done by increasing or decreasing the liquid membrane surrounding the ship, which would rely on the use of friction to point the submarine in the desired direction. This does come with risks though, as the size of the bubble is difficult to control. In the event that a part of the ship breached the bubble, it would immediately snap off due to the density difference. Not the best thing when travelling underwater at 3,694 MPH.
In the past, organizations such as DARPA have researched the technology for military application, but this Chinese team is instead looking at it for commercial use. Being able to travel from China to the United States in under two hours would be a drastic reduction in travel time when compared to the same trip via airplane. If the technology works out, it could also lead to commercial shipping ventures, and would allow us to transport goods across the world much more rapidly. This all said, Wang Guoyo (lead of the Chinese team) admits that the primary drive behind the research comes from the military, and because of that, any additional details could not be shared about the project.