Who doesn't know submarines? Their gigantic size and wide-ranged of purposes probably have left you in awe, but have you ever wondered how they actually work?

Well, say no more. In this post, we will break down everything you need to know about the submarines and how they can submerge, navigate, and float back into the surface. Read on!

What is a submarine?

A submarine submerges underwater
Photo: Futurity

Submarine is a special (and also... super big) ship that is able to dive deep into the water. It was originally created as military machines, but there are a few smaller ones used for scientific research purposes.

However, the use of subs are not only limited for those things above. Normally, they can also be used to recover lost items when a ship sinks, and even as a tourist ride to look for exotic view of the deep water.

Generally, submarines can dive deeper than 800 feet, and although they can stay under the water for long periods, they only limit the duration for 3 months due to the food and supplies stock they bring with.

Who controls the submarine?

Of course, submarines don't run by themselves. It takes several people to drive the submarines on the surface or when they're submerged.

Several submarine crews drive the submarine using the gears
Photo: Lockheed Martin

Here are their roles:

1. The helmsman & planesman: steers left, right, up, and down the controls to adjust the rudder and diving planes

2. The diving officer: supervises every move and action

3. The Chief of the Watch: operates the Ballast Control Panel (BCP) to control the ballasts and maintain the buoyancy.

While they operate the subs, they should continuously keep in touch with shore bases and ships. That's why they have this equipment, designed specifically to contact directly or through a satellite.

They also make use of Very Low Frequency (VLF) radio when travels under the water, capable to reach the depths of 60 feet.

How does a submarine submerge?

Imagine you're having a big bowl of water and a cup. Then, you push the cup down to the bottom of the bowl. Can you guess what will happen?

Yup, of course the cup will sink. The reason is because when you put pressure on the cup, it will be filled with water. And apparently, the water adds the weight of the cup, causing it easier to sink.

Taking the same principle, that's also how submarines work. However, the key point for submarines to successfully dive is actually located on its huge tanks, named ballast tanks.

At the top of the ballast tanks, there are valves that will open up when the subs are about to dive. Therefore, as the air on the ballast tanks is released, the tanks will fill in the seawater.

As a result, the subs will be heavier and more dense, making them submerge into the deep water.

How submarine works underwater

If you ever have snorkeled or took a diving under the water, you will know how dark it is when you look around your surroundings. And that's also the same with people boarding the submarine.

Oftentimes, the pilots are even clueless on where they're going to, since it's impossible to see when it's getting deeper. So, how would they navigate themselves?

Thankfully, all submarines are equipped with navigation that guides them through computers. They use ocean GPS satellite navigation, which relies on the space satellites to locate their position.

Another system that they use is called sonar, which stands for sound, navigation, and ranging. It works like radar – sending out waves into the sea to identify nearby objects, targets, underwater terrains, and other threatening things.

The visualization of how the sonar system works under the water
Photo: Kongsberg

Once the waves bounce off the objects, they will receive reflected echoes which can determine the distance between the objects. In short, the longer they receive echoes, the further the distance is, and vice versa.

How do submarines get air?

Sometimes, you may wonder how come people on submarines can breathe while they are in that closed space. Here's the answer!

When in port, submarines have access hatches. And when it's submerged at periscope depth, they also have a snorkel mast. Both of them function to bring in the air.

Once they're submerged deep down in the water, a computerized system will continuously clear and monitor the air, hence people on board can breath clear oxygen.

As humans, we inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide off of our body. It doesn't work the other way around, since of course, you can't breath in toxin. So, to avoid such thing happens, they have machines called scrubbers to trap carbon dioxide.

Additionally, when we exhale, we also release moisture. Therefore, the subs are also equipped with dehumidifiers, which will get the job done in preventing condensation on the ship.

How do submarines get back to float?

There are two ways on how a submarine can get back to the surface. The first one is called blowing to the surface.

Still remember about the ballast tanks? The tanks that also play an important role for the subs to submerge? Apparently, they are also used for submarines to float – again.

The subs will blow high-pressure air into the ballast tanks, replacing the seawater inside. As they release the seawater, the subs will be less dense, or in other words, lighter. And when it's become lighter, the sub can rise to the surface with ease.

Alternatively, it can also be controlled manually. Since submarines have planes, the pilots can adjust the angle, making the submarines rise to the surface. And when it's reached the surface, the seawater in ballast tanks is replaced with low-pressure air to keep the subs float.

Do you want to learn more about the subs in a fun way? The good news is, you can, and even enhanced with stunning visuals using augmented reality!

Tune in to the video below to realize how fun it is to explore about the subs, coming alive in front of you.

Video: Assemblr World (YouTube)

In Assemblr EDU, we believe that everyone can transform education to be more fun and interactive, using augmented reality technology. Interested to unveil more possibilities for your learning activities? Download Assemblr EDU now, available in App Store and Play Store!