Aquariums & Specialty glazing
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A material explorers can rely on

© Reeve Jolliffe Photography

No-one has dived down deeper or more often than Victor Vescovo. On his deep-sea adventures, he has discovered creatures that no human had ever seen before. This insight into unknown worlds is all thanks to PLEXIGLAS®.

The images are reminiscent of the moon landings: a countdown. A man in a capsule. A barren surface, surrounded by endless darkness. A bumpy landing. Swirling dust. “Landed! Repeat: landed.” Yet Victor Vescovo is not voyaging to space, but to the deepest parts of the world’s oceans. “We know more about Mars than we do about our oceans,” says the adventurer. His spectacular missions aim to change that.

Each mission is an immersion into the unknown. “If you're claustrophobic, you do not want to be in the submarine,” says Vescovo. He himself certainly has no problem with extremely tight spaces, daring to spend hours traveling the ocean floor all alone in the tiny space of his hermetically sealed special vehicle Limiting Factor time and again.

The American holds numerous records: He is the only person to have explored the deepest zones of all five oceans. Around 60 years after the spectacular expedition of the Trieste, the first submersible to dive down 10,912 meters into the Mariana Trench, one of Vescovo’s own dives beat this record by at least 13 meters. Vescovo is only the fourth person to have accessed this deepest zone of the ocean, following in the footsteps of Trieste pioneers Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh (1960) and “Titanic” director James Cameron (2012).

PLEXIGLAS® played a crucial role both on the Trieste and in the latest deep dive record.

Victor Vescovo presents his record-breaking submersible Limiting Factor in London

Source: Evening Standard

PLEXIGLAS® serves as a window to an unknown world

The manufacturer of the Limiting Factor, Triton Submarines in Florida, specializes in private submersibles. In partnership with PLEXIGLAS® manufacturer Röhm GmbH, they are fitted with viewports or panorama domes made from the brand acrylic glass. “You’ll never miss an extraordinary sight from a Triton sub,” promises Triton.

On the dives of his privately funded Five Deeps expedition between December 2018 and August 2019, Vescovo spotted 40 unknown species, took samples for research, and recorded 500 hours of video footage to document deep-sea worlds that had never been seen before.

The ability to record these fascinating impressions authentically is thanks to the optical properties of the highly transparent PLEXIGLAS® viewports, which allow a clear, undistorted view even under such extreme conditions.

PLEXIGLAS® is reliable even under the highest pressure

Limiting Factor – or, to give it its proper name, the model Triton 36000/2 – looks a little like a hard shell suitcase, out of which pokes a face with three portholes. The cabin has space for two passengers.

Eleven kilometers below the ocean surface, the pressure is around 1,000 bar. As a conventional submersible would burst under that pressure, the Triton 36000/2 was constructed with titanium walls 90 millimeters thick. When embarking on expeditions into such environments, deep-sea pioneers need to be able to rely on the material and technology 100%. “I don’t trust a lot of things in life, but I do trust titanium, I trust math and I trust finite element analysis, which is how you figure out whether or not things like this can survive these extraordinary pressures and conditions,” reported Vescovo at the TED innovation forum in 2019.

He can also safely place his trust in the PLEXIGLAS® of the viewports, which were produced by PLEXIGLAS® processor Heinz Fritz in Herbrechtingen.

“These PLEXIGLAS® windows are extremely safe, as they can withstand many tons of pressure – down to the deepest parts of the ocean,” emphasizes Wolfgang Stuber, special glazing specialist at Röhm GmbH. As a rule of thumb, the deeper a vehicle dives, the smaller the viewing windows. The three PLEXIGLAS® portholes in Vescovo’s record-breaking submersible Limiting Factor each have a diameter of 40 centimeters and a wall thickness of 20 centimeters, making them not much larger than those on the Trieste. They are designed as spherical shell segment windows in order to withstand the immense pressure while still offering the largest possible field of vision. Their conical position means that they narrow towards the submersible’s interior.

For comparison, the Triton 3300/3 model, which is designed for dives of depths up to “only” 1,000 meters, has a viewing sphere measuring 2.1 meters in diameter and a wall thickness of 16.6 centimeters. The special glazing team at PLEXIGLAS® used a totally new process to construct the sphere from a PLEXIGLAS® GS block.

Deep-sea pioneer

American Victor Vescovo set multiple records on his Five Deeps diving expedition to the deepest parts of the world’s oceans.

© Atlantic Productions

Triton 36000/2 submersible

The Triton 36000/2, named Limiting Factor, is reminiscent of a hard shell suitcase. The narrow shape is optimized for vertical diving up and down.

© Atlantic Productions

A window to the deep sea

The three conical viewports are custom-made from PLEXIGLAS® GS.

© Atlantic Productions

Cockpit

Victor Vescovo in the cockpit: The submersible capsule has a diameter of 1.5 meters and space for two people.

© Atlantic Productions

Mysterious deep-sea creatures

On the floor of the Pacific, Vescovo discovered this previously unknown species of jellyfish.

© Atlantic Productions

The only reusable submersible for extreme depths

Limiting Factor is the world’s only reusable submersible for extreme depths. “It’s kind of the SpaceX of ocean exploration,” says Vescovo, referring to the space travel company owned by Elon Musk that is working on reusable rockets. Up to now, submersibles usually had to be retired after expeditions to extreme depths, as the pressure load impaired the housing. But the titanium walls of the Triton 36000/2 and its PLEXIGLAS® viewing windows can withstand it.

Ocean research will benefit from this. Limiting Factor opens a window to the deep sea, 95 percent of which has not yet been researched, says Vescovo euphorically, offering the passenger seat in his very special underwater taxi. Several researchers have already taken up the offer.

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