The U.S. Navy is committed to maintaining the capability of rescuing survivors from a disabled submarine, including situations where the disabled submarine becomes internally pressurized due to flooding, leakage of compressed gas supplies, or through use of auxiliary breathing systems. Efficient submarine rescue requires that pressurized crewmembers be decompressed more rapidly than current decompression procedures allow when using air. The Navy Experimental Diving Unit in Panama City, FL has shown that crew decompression can be accelerated significantly by pre-breathing oxygen. Unfortunately, such oxygen pre-breathing can result in oxygen buildup in the cabin atmospheres of the submarine, and/or rescue chamber through leakage around the face seal of the oxygen masks. High levels of oxygen can create hazardous conditions within the cabin atmosphere due to fire potential and/or oxygen toxicity concerns. This paper addresses the concept development of an oxygen “metabolizer” using a hydrogen catalytic reactor to consume excess oxygen within the closed cabin atmosphere of a rescue vehicle. Such a catalytic reactor has also been shown to give an effective method of reducing the level of oxygen in diver breath heating and diver whole-body heating systems.

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