Below the Abyss
A new generation of deep-sea submersibles relies on ATI titanium forgings to take explorers to the ocean’s deepest, darkest depths.
Welcome to Hades.
It’s the realm of the Dumbo Octopus, the Black Seadevil and the Goblin Shark. Among ocean scientists, it’s known as the hadal zone, literally named after the mythical kingdom of the dead.
No daylight has ever penetrated its depths, and none ever will.
More humans have walked on the moon than have visited the hadal zone’s deepest depths. To get there, a sub must withstand a pressure change from 15 pounds per square inch to a hull-crushing 16,000 PSI as it travels seven miles straight down to the very bottom of the sea. Until recently, most submersibles could only visit these depths once or twice, and then retire, unable to withstand the forces of the deep for more than a few trips.
But a new generation of submersibles is changing all that. They’re designed and certified to make more trips, dive deeper, and stay down longer.
A perfect sphere of titanium
Uniquely suited to their application, these new vessels are vertically designed to travel like high-speed elevators. They use advanced design and materials to perform safely and reliably at the bottom of the ocean. And they protect their precious human aquanauts from extreme pressure by surrounding them in a perfect sphere of titanium, forged by ATI in Cudahy, Wisconsin.
Titanium is the natural choice for a pressure vessel because it combines high strength-to-weight performance and high corrosion resistance. The trick in fabricating one of these structures is crafting the right alloy and being able to forge the metal flawlessly into two 5-foot-diameter hemispheres. ATI is one of a handful of companies with the experience and capabilities to pull it off. Our 15,000-ton press in Cudahy has been producing titanium pressure vessels for decades for use in deep-sea submersibles, satellite propellant tanks and other high-performance applications.
Illuminating the earth’s deepest, darkest places
Our most recent pressure vessel forging has an inside diameter of 59 inches and is 3.5 inches thick. It protects two explorers and their instruments from the forces of the hadal zone as it helps make the sub nimble enough to handle rugged terrain, big enough to carry crew and gear, and light enough to be launched from a surface ship. This vessel has already visited all five of earth’s deepest spots, and has helped researchers get close to Frilled Sharks, Fanfins and other residents of the earth’s most remote and inaccessible realms. With the hadal zone now open to more exploration, deep ocean research is getting a heck of a boost.