Essay on Physics of Submarines

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Most people have some sort of familiarity with submarine crafts; most of which are most likely related to the navy. This is a very accurate depiction of submarines, as they are primarily used for this, however, they are used in areas of scientific research as well. The purpose of this web page is to go into the history of the submarine to see how it has developed over time. We will also look at how a submarine works, from a physics standpoint.

The History of Submarines

332 BC Aristotle described a type of submersible chamber used by the sailors of Alexander the Great during the Blockade of Tiros.

200 BC There is evidence that there was a primitive submarine in China that was able to move by the bottom of the sea.

1578 AD Much later in time, the first actual design for a submarine was presented by William Borne. In this design was the concept of ballast tanks (I will go into more depth on these later) used to submerge and surface. This design, however, was never actually built.

1620 AD A Dutchman, named Cornelis Drebel, built the first successful submarine with a wooden frame that was encased in leather. This craft was able to carry 12 rowers and eight additional people, totaling the people in the craft to 20. This vessel was capable of diving to depths of 20 meters and could travel 10 kilometers at a time. This submarine was tested in the Thames River, and would often remain submerged for hours. This submarine was the first to address the problem of oxygen shortage.

1775 AD David Bushnell, an engineering student at Yale, invented the “Turtle”. This egg shaped submarine was driven by two, hand-cranked screw propellers; one controlling forward movemen...

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...into fresh water through a distillation process. The distillation plant on submarines can produce 10,000 to 40,000 gallons of water per day. The water is mainly used for cooling equipment and for the crews’ personal use.


Fruedenrich, Craig, Ph.D, and Marshall Brain. How Submarines Work. 10 Apr. 2003


Guilmartin, John F, Jr. About Submarines. 10 Apr. 2003

The National Museum of American History. 10 Apr. 2003 .

Serway, Raymond A, and Robert J Beichner. Physics: For Scientists and Engineers. United States of

America: Thomson Learning, INC, 2000.

The United States Navy. The Evolution of Submarine Design. 10 Apr. 2003


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