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Publication numberUS3812922 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateMay 28, 1974
Filing dateFeb 16, 1972
Priority dateAug 6, 1969
Publication numberUS 3812922 A, US 3812922A, US-A-3812922, US3812922 A, US3812922A
InventorsB Stechler
Original AssigneeB Stechler
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Deep ocean mining, mineral harvesting and salvage vehicle
US 3812922 A
Abstract
A deep ocean mining, mineral harvesting and salvage vehicles including a body integrally formed of a positive buoyancy material and having recesses therein to receive a plurality of variable buoyancy tanks. Eduction and coring mining systems are alternatively provided for the vehicles, and the vehicles are propelled along the floor of the ocean by means of high velocity jets and/or turbine wheels.
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Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

atent 11 1 Stechier 1 May 28, 1974 1 DEEP OCEAN MINING, MINERAL 3,415,068 12/1968 Casey, Jr. 61 a1. 151/69 R HARVESTING AND SALVAGE VEHICLE 3,442,339 5/1969 Williamson I 175/6 3,500,648 3/1970 Daniel! A 61/69 R [76] Inventor: Bernard G. Stechler, 766 Brady 3 504 43 4/1970 K iedi 114/16 R Ave., Bronx, N.Y. 10462 3,583,349 6/1971 Colletti et a1. 114/16 R 3,593,533 7/1971 Washington I A 37/56 X [22] 161 1972 3,699,689 10/1972 Haynes 61 69 R {21] Appl. No.: 226,911

Primar Examiner-Robert E. Pulfre R 1 ted U. .A 1 1) 1 y Y Comm zp g 35 A 6 Assistant Examiner-Clifford D. Crowder L121 1011-1 -par 0 Cl. 0. Ug.

1969, abandoned. Attorney, Agent, or Firm Sherman & Shalloway [52] US. Cl 175/6, 37/56, 37/62, [57] ABSTRACT 61/69 R, 114/16 E, 175/58, 175/254 A d 1h, d I 51 1111.01 1221b 7/12, B63c 7/00, E02f 3/88 9 f f f S l fi mg a [58] Field 61 Search 37/56, 61-63; I? i f f y m j P 61/69; 114/16, 16 E; 299/8; 175/6, 58, 254 Yancy "1 recesses e receive a plurality of variable buoyancy tanks. Eduction and coring mining systems are alternatively pro- [56] References cued vided for the vehicles, and the vehicles are propelled UNITED STATES PATENTS along the floor of the ocean by means of high velocity 687,830 12/1901 Kirk 299/8 jets and/0r turbine wheels. 2,631,821 3/1953 Caldwell 175/312 X 3,369,368 2/1968 Wilson 61/69 R 26 Claims, 17 Drawing Figures PATENTED MAY 2 8 m4 SHEET 2 BF 7 INVENTOR BERNARD G. STEcHLER ATTORNEYS PATENIED MY 28 974 SHEU 3. 0F 7 FAQ .5

oJlll 5 mW EATENTEDHAY 28 m4 SHEET 0F 7 INVENTOR BERNARD G. STECHLER Y flaw 7 m 7 ATTORNEYS ?ATENTEUMAY 28 I974 SHEU 5 0F 7 INVENTOR ATTORNEYS SHiET 8 BF 7 rATENTEUflAY 28 m4 Somc RANSD UCEQ (DNTRQLLER cuzcun v comm.

PRESSURE TRANSDUCER PRESSURE x CONTROLLER "no '106' TRANSDUCER PAT um 28 m4 F/a f6 I DEEP OCEAN MINING, MINERAL HARVESTING AND SALVAGE VEHICLE The present application is a continuation-in-part of co-pending U. S. Pat. Application Ser. No. 848,012 filed Aug. 6, 1969, now abandoned.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION 1. Field of the Invention The present invention relates to submarine mining, recovery and salvage, and more particularly, to vehicles for use in mining and mineral recovery of the vast quantity of minerals and ores on the floor of the ocean and for use in salvaging sunken vessels and other large submerged objects.

2. Discussion of the Prior Art On the ocean floor are vast quantities of mineral reserves; their exploitation being limited primarily by the technology of their recovery or delivery to the surface of the ocean. Among the primary mineral resources presently known are rich deposits of zinc, copper, silver, lead, manganese and phosphate. There are two basic varieties of mineral deposits on the ocean floor that are potential ores. First, ore deposits of hydrothermal origin associated with the worldwide ocean ridge system. Second, concentrations of minerals probably derived from sea water and spread as a thin layer or as nodules over large areas ofthe ocean floor. The latter concentrations are the primary potential sources of manganese and phosphate while the former deposits associated with the world ridge system represent potentially concentrations of copper, zinc, lead, gold and silver.

Ocean mining offers many advantages which are not possible with traditional land mining. In the ocean there are materials that are available without removing any overburden, without the use of explosives, and without the expense of drilling operations for sampling. With cameras and inexpensive coring operations the complete deposit can be explored prior to mining. As a whole new concept, ocean mining can be designated for automation in the beginning which should result in new equipment designs not bound by tradition. The same equipment could be used to mine various deposits and could be easily moved from one area to another. Sea transportation can be used to carry the mined ore to more of the worlds markets with no other form of transportation involved.

The midoceanic ridge system is a long ridge extending for some 40,000 miles through the main oceans of the world. Associated with its crest is a narrow zone where volcanic activity is concentrated. This is an area of high frequency of shallow earthquakes. Iceland is a part of this ridge which is emergent, and the volcanic activity and hot spring activity of lceland is probably typical of very long reaches of this ridge. Experts have hypothesized that the crestal region of this ridge probably contains such vast quantities of heavy metal deposits that it may revolutionize the whole heavy metal industry. The metals, apparently, are derived from hot waters emerging from deep within the earth carrying large amounts of mineral materials, and these minerals are precipitated in the sediment as the waters percolate through them. Two deposits of this type have been found in the deep ocean, and a third found of Southern California is associated with the same geological feature.

The most thoroughly investigated of these deposits is an area of heavy metals in the Red Sea. In 1964 two subsurface pools of hot saline brine were discovered on the floor of the Red Sea, and a third small pool. was found in 1966. The pools occur in adjacent local depressions along the medium valley of the Red Sea. The brines in these pools have heavy metal concentrations that are much above normal ocean water, and their associated bottom sediments contain the highest contents of zinc, lead and copper yet found in recent marine deposits. I

At current smelter prices for zinc, copper, lead, silver and gold, the metals of these deposits have been conservatively estimated as worth about 2.3 billion dollars. Accordingly, impetus for providing equipment capable of economically recovering these ores is clearly present.

Aside from. the deposits of heavy metal ores, manganese nodules are considered by some experts as the most interesting, as a potential economic resource, of the mineral deposits of the deep sea.

Large areas of the Pacific Ocean contain vast fields of manganese nodules, and the only obstacles to their use as an ore is the cost of recovery and transportation to some suitable refinery. A recent discovery of a manganese crust on the Blake Plateau is of particular inter est because of its proximity to the United States and suitable areas for refining the material and marketing it. Dredge samples and photographs from the Blake Plateau'off the southeast coast of the United States indicate that a layer of manganese oxide forms a pavement that may be continuous over an area of about 5,000 square kilometers. The manganese pavement grades into round manganese nodules to the south and east and into phosphate nodules to the west. The Gulf Stream probably maintains a very unusual environment that prohibits deposition of other sediment on top of this deposit and permits the accretion of the manganese pavement.

The largest problem in commercially exploiting these minerals on the ocean floor in an economical way is the inability to harvest and to move them from the ocean floor to the surface. This problem exists with respect to mining of both heavy metal ores and mineral nodules, which often involve different recovery techniques. Since sea transportation is very inexpensive and the reduction of the minerals to their economically marketable constituents can be done at ports, transportation and refinement are not major problems. The primary problem remains, however, of movement of mining and mineral harvest from the ocean floor to the surface of the ocean.

In order to make deep ocean mining and mineral recovery economically feasible, it is desirable to provide the mining and recovery vehicle with a large load carrying capacity; and, thus, it is desirable that the vehicle be capable of moving along the floor of the ocean to increase the area of mining and mineral recovery. This problem is another of those as yet not satisfactorily solved by the prior art.

US. Pat. Nos. 3,045,623, 3,415,068 and 3,442,339 are representative of prior art attempts to provide underwater mining or mineral harvesting vehicles; however, the vehicles of the above mentioned patents have not overcome the basic problem of transporting large quantities of materials from the floor of the ocean to the ocean surface. Accordingly, none of these vehicles represent economically feasible means for harvesting materials'beneath the ocean; More particularly; the greater the depth required for submersion for underwater mining or mineral recovery vehicles, the more difficult is the ascent of the vehicle from the floor of the ocean witha large load since these and other conventional vehicles require increasing thickness of the shell structure with increasing submergence depths in order to withstand the increasing pressures. That is, the vehicles of the above mentioned patents are ineffective at great depths due to increased reinforcement of negative buoyancy structural portions thereof.

Other underwater vehicles such as submarines and human diving vessels are known, however, such vehi-' cles are not adapted to transport large quantities of material, sunken vessels or large submerged objects from the floor of the ocean to the ocean surface.

US. Pat. Nos. 3,329,297 and 3,400,848 are representative of prior art attempts to provide structure to permit deep submergence of underwater vehicles; however, the use of such structure as of the present to construct a'practicalmining, mineral harvesting and salvage vehiclehas not been accomplished due not only to the requirement of beingcapable of withstanding tremendous pressures at great depths, but furtherv due to the requirement of transporting a large load from the ocean floor to theocean surface. v

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION Accordingly, itisa primaryobject of the present invention to construct a deep ocean mining and mineral recovery .vehicle capable of descending to great depths, collecting large quantities of material, and returning to the surface. v

' Another object of the present invention is to provide a vehicle for economically recovering heavy metal ores from the ocean floor. a 1 n v t A further object of the present invention is to provide means formining and harvesting heavyv metals, ores, sediment, nodules and any other geological and biological constituents -from the ocean floor and move them to the surface of the ocean. I

Still another object of the present invention is' the construction of a vehicle for economically recovering mineral nodules from the ocean floor. v I

A more specific object of the present invention is to provide a deep ocean mining and salvage vehicle having a permanent negative buoyancy section, a permanent positive buoyancy portion, and a variable buoyancy system. i I

Another specific object of the present invention is to provide a mining vehicle for recovering minerals from the ocean floor including avariable buoyancy chamber wherein the pressure used to increase the positive buoyancy of the vehicle also operates to power the mining system of the vehicle. I

Still another specific object of the present invention is to provide a deep ocean mining vehicle which is totally self-contained and may operate through its mining cycle completely independently of the mother ship;

Yet another specific object of the presentinvention is to provide a deep ocean mining vehicle having a plurality of variable buoyancy tanks, each including a high pressure chamber for receiving fluid under pressure and a storage chamber for receiving a fluid, the pressure and storage chambers being arranged such that the fluid from the pressure chamber forces the fluid from the storage chamber through a pumping system to remove minerals from the ocean floor and place them in a payload receiving chamber whereby vehicle buoyancy changes with collection of a payload.

A still more specific object of the present invention is to provide a number of skirts on the base of the vehicle, each of which in cooperation with the ocean floor forms a closed suction chamber. r

Still another object of the present invention is the provision of a deep seamining vehicle employing a core which is accelerated as the vehicle approaches the ocean floor to bore into heavy metal ores and retain the ore through capillary action within the core.

' Another object .of the present invention is to provide a deepsea mining vehicle employing a core for recovering heavy mineral ores and anenclosure system for The present invention has another object in that: the body of a deep ocean mining, mineral and salvage re covery vehicle is formed of a positive buoyancy material capable of withstanding pressures concomitant with deep ocean submergence. I

An additional object of the present invention is to provide a salvage vehicle having great variable buoyancy characteristics in order to bring sunken vessels and large submerged objects to the ocean surface.

A further object ofthe present invention is to construct a deep ocean mining, mineral recovery and salvage vehicle having a body, not requiring a negative buoyancy material outer shell. 1

Another object of the present invention is to form a body for a deep ocean vehicle of a positive buoyancy material such as a syntactic foam matrix or a syntactic foam matrix encompassing large hollow spheres or a combination thereofu 1 Briefly,'the deep-ocean mining, mineral recovery and salvage vehicle of the present invention includes a body integrally formed with a predetermined configuration of amaterial having a high positive buoyancy and of substantial strength to withstand pressures to which the vehicle will besubjected at greatocean depths. The positive buoyancy material has an extremely low specific density in order to enhance ascent of the vehicle to the ocean surface uponjcompletion of a submarine.

mining or salvage operation.

The configuration of the positive buoyancy body defines a plurality of cylindrical recesses opening at the top of the body to receive variable buoyancy tanks which are operative to control ascent and descent of the vehicle. The variable buoyancy tanks each include a pressure chamber filled with a high pressure fluid and a storage chamber filled with a fluid, usually a liquid such as sea water which is readily available; the chamopening a valve in the variable buoyancy tanks and permitting the fluid under pressure, preferably compressed air, to force the fluid in the storage chambers, preferably sea water, out of the variable buoyancy tanks. The sea water is directed through an eduction mining unit including a venturi type section which operates to draw material (e.g., nodules, sediment, ores, etc.) within the chamber formed by the skirt and ocean floor, up through a pipe passing through the vehicle and into the payload receiving chamber. A portion of the sea water in the eduction mining system may be used to exert considerable pressure on the sea floor and thus stir up" the sediment to facilitate drawing the sediment through the venturi and into the payload chamber. As the gas in the variable buoyancy tanks expands forcing the sea water out of the tanks, the density of air being much less than the specific density of the sea water, at the end of the harvesting phase the buoyancy of the vehicle will change causing the vehicle to begin its ascent. The change in buoyancy of the vehicle is sufficient to overcomethe increased densitycaused by the payload within the payload receiving chamber so that the vehicle and payload are raised to the ocean surface automatically as the mining cycle is completed.

The present invention is generally characterized in a deep ocean mining and mineral recovery vehicle including a body formed of a positive buoyancy material and having recesses formed therein, variable buoyancy tanks disposed in the recesses to provide a negative buoyancy relative to sea water during descent ofthe vehicle and a positive buoyancy relative to sea water during ascent of the vehicle, a payload receiver carried by the body, and mining means for delivering minerals from a surface on which the vehicle rests to the payload receiver. 5

Some of the advantages of the present invention over the prior art are that the deep ocean mining, mineral recovery and salvage vehicle can withstand great pressures to permit submergence to great depths while maintaining sufficient buoyancy to permit the collection of large payloads, the variable buoyancy tanks of the vehicle may be easily removed therefrom and filling of the tanks may be facilitated by the use of compressed air and sea water, the vehicle is movable along the floor of the ocean in order to increase the area to be mined and no outer shell is required for the vehicle thereby reducing the weight of the vehicle and increasing operating submergence depths while facilitating ascent of the vehicle with a payload.

Other objects and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following description of the preferred embodiments taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. I is a perspective view, partially in section, ofa deep ocean mining, mineral recovery and salvage vehicle according to the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a schematic diagram of the eduction mining system of the deep ocean mining, mineral recovery and salvage vehicle of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a schematic diagram of the fail-safe device of the deep ocean mining, mineral recovery and salvage vehicle of FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is an exploded view of a possible, permanent, positive buoyancy material forming the body of the 6 deep ocean mining, mineral recovery and salvage vehicle of FIG. 1.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view, partially in section, of another embodiment of a deep ocean mining and mineral recovery vehicle according to the present invention.

FIG. 6 is an exploded view of the coring plates of the deep ocean mining and mineral recovery vehicle of FIG. 5.

FIGS. 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 illustrate various modifications of the coring device of the deep ocean mining and mineral recovery vehicle of FIG. 5.

FIG. 12 is a cross-section of the wash-out prevention structure of the present invention taken along line 12-12 of FIG. 13.

FIG. 13 is an elevation of the wash-out prevention structure of the present invention.

FIG. 14 is an exploded view of an alternate wash-out prevention structure according to the present inven tion.

FIG. 15 is a top plan view of a further embodiment of a deep ocean mining and mineral recovery vehicle according to the present invention.

FIG. 16 is a sectional view of the deep ocean mining and mineral recovery vehicle of FIG. 15 taken along line l6l6 of FIG. 15.

FIG. 17 is a schematic diagram of a control system for the deep ocean mining and mineral recovery vehicle of FIG. 15.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS The vehicle 1 includes a body 2 integrally formed of a positive buoyancy material to be described in greater detail hereinafter. The body 2 has a generally cylindrical configuration and is annular in cross-section to define an outer cylindrical surface 3, an inner cylindrical surface 4, a bottom end surface 5 and a top end surface 6. Six cylindrical recesses 7 are formee in body 2 with their axes in parallel relation and equally spaced around the central axis of body 2. Recesses and passages are further formed within body 2 to accommodate various conduits, inlets and outlets for the vehicle as will be appreciated from the following detailed description of the vehicle.

Each of the cylindrical recesses 7 receives a variable buoyancy tank 8; and, preferably, a cylindrical liner or coating 7a is disposed between each of the tanks 8 and the inner surfaces of the recesses 7 in order to facilitate insertion and removal of the tanks; such liner or coating 7a being advantageously made of nylon or polytetrafluoroethylene or other suitable materials. Within each tank 8, there is provided a piston 9 and/or an inflatable bladder which divides the tank into upper and lower superposed chambers. As illustrated, the upper or pressure chamber is filled with a fluid such as a gas 10 under pressure. The lower or storage chamber is filled with a fluid such as a liquid 11; and, for simplicity's sake, it is convenient to employ salt water in this chamber. The reasons for separating the tank into two chambers or sections and having pressurized gas and liquid in the separated sections will become apparent when the description of the operation of the vehicle is set forth subsequently.

Each tank 8 may be provided with a valve 12 at an upper section thereof for charging a fluid under pressure into the pressure chamber of the tank above the the inlet 13 is sealed off, and the valve 12 is connected to a compressor in order to charge the upper chamber of the tank 8 with high pressure gas. In normal operation, the vehicles are placed in the water with a flotation collar holding the vehicles adjacent the mother ship, and the compressor of the mother ship is employed to charge the upper chamber of the tank 8 with make uphigh pressure gas since the system will retain most of the gas therein. Once the gas is charged to a sufficient pressure, the valve 12 is shut off. The vehicle is protected from an over pressure by a pressure relief valve 12a.

Centrally of the body 2 is carried a perforated bucket 14 spaced from the inner surface 4 by spacers 15. The bucket 14 is adapted to carry a payload generally illustrated at 16. The bucket 14 may be provided with a filter 18 for separating the valuable minerals from'the brine which is passed into the bucket through the eduction process. The spacers l5 positioning the bucket from the inner surface 4 permit the brine and other undesirable elements that are mined into the bucket 14 to exit the vehicle after passing through the filter and the holes in the bucket walL Thus, the payload that is lifted from the ocean floor to the surface of the ocean is generally comprised of substantially dense valuable mineral deposits and hard metal ores along with other sediment which have been separated through the filtering process from the brine and salt water that is originally passed into the bucket through the mining process. The bucket 14 may be provided with lifting rings 17 which facilitate removal of the bucket from the vehicle when the vehicle returns to the surface of the ocean after the mining process, and the bucket may be supported within body 2 on an inwardly radially extending ledge 40 projecting from inner surface 4 at bottom end surface 5. To recover the payload (e.g., heavy metals, nodules, ores, sediment, etc.) within the bucket, it is merely necessary to connect some sort of lifting device provided on the mother ship to the lifting rings 17 and carry or withdraw the bucket from the central portion of the vehicle. The payload thus removed is placed on a carrier ship for transportation to subsequent processing equipment.

An eduction pumping system for mining with the vehicle of the present invention is illustrated generally at 20 and includes a generally conical skirt 21 associated with each of the variable buoyancy tanks 8. The skirts 21 each have accordian'like pleats 22 and are adapted to engage the ocean floor and cooperate therewith to form a suction chamber. The eduction system 20 includes conduits 24 adapted to communicate with the liquid chambers ll of the variable buoyancy tanks 8 through valves 27, venturi structures disposed above the chambers formed by skirt 2i and reduced diameter outlet jet ports 26.

A plurality of sensor elements 23 extend downwardly below the bottom of vehicle 1 and are connected to operate valves 27 positioned between the liquid chambers 11 of the variable buoyancy tanks 8 and the eduction system 20. When the sensors, which are usually 20 feet long but can be of any desired length, reach the ocean floor, the valves 27 are opened and the high pressure in the gas chambers of the variable buoyancy tanks 8 moves the pistons 9 downwardly to expel the liquid 11 from the liquid chambers past valves 27 and at a high velocity through conduits 24. The high velocity liquid passing through the conduits 24 is directed through the venturis 25 and jets 26. The liquid passing through the jets 26 operates to stir up the sediment on the ocean floor and the valuable constituents (e.g., heavy metals, ores, nodules, etc.) contained therein. As previously discussed, when employing a vehicle of the type according to the present invention to mine the minerals that act as loose pavement on the ocean floor, it is very easy to draw these valuable minerals into the recovery portion of the vehicle when the minerals are stirred or agitated by employing the jets 26. Each venturi 25 has an opening 28 on the upper side thereof so that as the velocity of the liquid passing through the venturi increases, the sediment in the chamber formed by the skirt 21 and the ocean floor is entrained into the liquid passing through the venturi and drawn through collection pipes 29 which extend from the bottom end surface 5 of body 2 to the top end surface 6 between tanks 8. A screen 30 is disposed across the opening in the bottom of body 2 of the top edge of each skirt 21 in order to discriminate between the desirable mesh size material and any undesirable large stones, etc., that would be found on the ocean floor.

The valuable mineral nodules entrained into the flow passing through the venturis are drawn through the pipes 29 and up to'the upper portion of the vehicle. At the upper portion of the vehicle, each pipe 29 is divided into a depositing section 21 and a guidance section 32. A screen 33 is placed in each guidance section 32 to deflect nodules through the depositing section 31. The

' entraining liquid and mined nodules pass through the pipes 29 and depositing sections 31 and are deposited in the bucket 14 with the entraining liquid passing through the filter and openings within the bucket so that the payload of nodules becomes highly compacted within the bucket. The liquid passing through the screen and out the guidance section 32 of the pipe 29 operates to give a rotational movement to the vehicle as well as a transitory motion in order to sweep the vehicle across the ocean floor in the sense of a vacuum cleaner so that large quantities of valuable minerals may be mined during the course of one descent of the vehicle.

Of course it will be recognized that a skirt and eduction unit 20 are associated with each of the variable buoyancy tanks 8 of the vehicle and that the buoyancy of the vehicle is constantly changing due to the expanded vacuum containing the fluid 10 and decreasing volume containing the fluid ll which is of greater density towards the end of the harvesting operation. When considering the variable buoyancy or buoyancy change of the vehicle, the payload 16 within the bucket 14 must also be added into the larger or greater density structural features of the vehicle.

Depending upon the specific density of the payload being mined, the vehicle may be pre-charged with the fluid 10 under pressure in such a manner as to control the point when the vehicle will change from negative buoyancy to positive buoyancy with respect to the quantity of salt water displaced by the vehicle.

The density of the vehicle is controlled consistent with the following formulae:

DESCENT l. p pressure tanks X Vpressure tanks p bucket X Vbucket p piping X Vpiping p body X Vbody p air Vair p I-I O X VH O p misc. X Vmisc. 64.4 23/ft. Vtotal) ASCENT 2. p pressure tanks X Vpressure tanks p bucket X Vbucket p piping X Vpiping p body X Vbody p air X V air+p minerals X Vminerals p misc. X Vmisc. 64.4 /ft.( Vtotal) wherein p density (No/ft) V Volume (ft As will be readily recognized, the density and volume of the body, pressure tank structure, bucket and piping will remain constant so that the only variables on the left side of the equations are the density and volume of air, the volume of the water, and the density and volume of the minerals. Since the density of the waterunder pressure will remain substantially constant, the only variables of any significance are the weight of air, the volume of water, and the density and volume of minerals. For descent, the left side of Equation 1 must be greater than 64.4 times the total volume. Likewise for ascent, the left side of Equation 2 must be less than 64.4 times total volume. From Equations 1 and 2 it is evident that the weight ofthe water displaced is greaterthan the weight of the payload. The velocity of descent and ascent have been considered in the overall design with the variables determining optimum velocity being shape, dimensions, weight and volume. By having the total of the left side of the equation being greater than the 64.4 X the total volume of the vehicle, the vehicle is thus heavier than water and will operate to displace water and sink at a predetermined rate of descent.

Considering the formula as it applies in the ascent phase of the operation of the vehicle, the water has been discharged from the chamber so that the water factor of the equation is eliminated. The change in the weight of the vehicle is due to the increased volume of the chambers containing air, the decrease in the volume of the chambers containing water, and the increase in the volume of the minerals carried by the vehicle.

Referring now to FIG. 2, a schematic of the eduction system of the present invention is illustrated. A single variable buoyancy tank 8 is illustrated with piston 9 and/or an inflatable bladder separating the gas 10 in the high pressure chamber and the liquid 11 within the storage chamber. Valve 27 is connected between the storage chamber within the tank 8 and conduit 24. The high pressure 10 forces the piston 9 downwardly within the tank 8 and causes the liquid 11 within the tank to exhaust through the pipe 24 at a very high velocity. Th high velocity liquid passing through the pipe 24 is directed partially through the jet 26 which opens within skirt 21. A valve 34 may be disposed between conduit 24 and jet 26 for selectively controlling the flow through the jet 26. The remaining portion of the high velocity liquid is passed through the venturi 25 to draw the embodiment stirred up by the jet 26 through opening 28 into the pipe 29.

The nodules and other sediment stirred up by liquid issuing from the jet 26 pass through the upper portion of the skirt 21 at a comparatively low pressure but with a high volume of minerals being drawn into the pipe 29 through the action of the venturi 25 which creates a low pressure adjacent the openings 28 due to the increased velocity at that point.

The depositing section 31 and guidance section 32 operate respectively to deposit the minerals within the collection chamber or bucket 15 while the carrier water exits through the openings in the bucket so that the sediment and nodules becomes a highly compacted payload within the bucket of the vehicle and to provide movement for the vehicle. The nodules and sediment entrained in the liquid passing through the guidance section 32 having been deflected into the depositing section 31 by the screen 33, the carrying liquid passes through a jet attached to the guidance section 32 to propel the vehicle in a sweeping motion across the ocean floor. A valve 35 may be disposed between pipe 29 and each guidance section 32 to control the jets on the ends of the guidance sections 32 for selectively determining the course of movement of the vehicle 1.

The vehicle I is also provided with a fail-safe recovery unit which is indicated generally at 40 in FIG. 1 and shown more clearly in schematic form in FIG. 3. Once the vehicle descends to the ocean floor, if for some reason due to the terrain of the ocean floor, one or number of sensors 23 are not actuated, so that the buoyancy of the vehicle does not change sufficiently to cause the vehicle to start the ascent after the mining phase, the fail safe recovery is automatically operated. The fail safe unit 40 includes a thin walled, plastic, inflatable canopy 41 which is securely but releasably attached to the upper sections of the variable buoyancy tanks 8. A valve 42 is disposed in a pipe between the pressure chambers of the variable buoyancy tanks and canopy 41 and may be operated by either a timer mechanism alone or a timer mechanism in conjunction with the sensors 23. In any event, if, after a predetermined time from either launch or the time the vehicle reaches the ocean floor, the vehicle has not started its ascent, the timer mechansim operates to automatically-open the valve 42 and inflate the canopy 41.8ince the gas 10 under pressure will seek the relief afforded to the valve 42 and the canopy 41, the canopy 41 will be inflated and displace a sufficient amount of water to change the buoyancy of the vehicle to a net positive buoyancy and cause the vehicle to start its ascent to the ocean surface.

The canopy preferably has the configuration of a cylindrical bag and is fitted with a bleeder valve at the top to equalize the pressure differential between the air pocket and the outside water pressure. The timer mechanism may be any standard timer that is sufficiently packaged to withstand the high pressure and severe treatment that such a device would receive in the vehicle contemplated.

In order to form the body 2 of positive buoyancy material, the variable buoyancy tanks, the piping and the components of the eduction system are placed in their proper positions, as illustrated in FIG. 1, within a cylindrical shell having a configuration mating with the surfaces 3, 4 and 5. That is, the cylindrical shell will have a central axially extended cylinder in order to define the cylindrical portion for receiving bucket 14. The liners or coatings 7a may be formed around the variable buoyancy tanks 8 as they are positioned within the cylindrical shell, and a top plate corresponding to the configuration of components along top end surface 6 of the body may be provided to form the top surface 6 as required. Dependent upon the weight of the payload to be brought to the surface of the ocean, the cylindrical shell is filled with large, hollow, plastic spheres properly spaced, and'the cylindrical shell is then filled with microspheres. Of course, the number and size of the plastic spheres is dependent on design considerations, and for some applications no plastic spheres will be required. Once all of the openings are filled with the microspheres,.a resin in sucked into the cylindrical shell and the body is then subjected to curing. After curing the cylindrical shell is removed and the deep ocean mining and mineral recovery vehicle, as illustrted in FIG. I, is formed. 7

Applicant has found that one of the most effective positive buoyancy material for forming body 2 is one formed of a syntactic foam matrix encompassing large hollow spheres and microspheres, as mentioned above. FIG. 4 illustrates a module of such material including a foam matrix 45 andhollow spheres 46. The spheres 46 are of various diameter and may range anywhere from one to three inches. Buoyancy material constructed in this manner has a net buoyancy of approxi mately 28-36 lbs. per cubic foot with a hydroxtatic compressive strength of 13,500 lbs. per square inch. Accordingly, the positive buoyancy force produced by body 2 will operate to displace a considerable amount of sea water when the vehicle is submerged and represent the major positive buoyancy force for the vehicle. The remaining positive buoyancy forces for the vehicle result from the variable buoyancy tanks 8 when the compressed fluid I is expanded upon opening of the valves 27 through the mining process so that the total volume of the plurality of variable buoyancy tanks combine at a very lowdensity path with the low density buoyancy material to provide sufficient positive buoyancy to overcome the negative buoyancy constituents in order to raise the vehicle to the ocean surface. The particulars of the buoyancy material have been more completely described in a paper given by applicant as co-author at the third US. Navy symposium on military oceanography at San Diego, Calif. on May I2, 1966. The article is entitled Composite Modules: A New Design for Deep Ocean Buoyancy Application" and is authored by HG. Stechler and Israel Resnick.

Referring now to F IG. 5, another embodiment of the present invention is illustrated, such embodiment being employed primarily for the mining of heavy metal ores which are at times compacted on the ocean floor. The vehicle of FIG. is utilized to recover minerals and heavy metal ores that are not so freely agitated as the material mined by the vehicle of FIG. 1 and operates on a coring principle. The basic structure of the vehicle is substantially the same as that described in connection with the vehicle of FIG. I, and elements in FIG. 5 identical to elements in FIG. 1 are given identical reference numbers and are not described again. The primary difference between the vehicle of FIG. 5 and the previously described vehicle is the coring mechanism 50 located centrally of the body 2.

The coring mechanism 50 can be constructed of any preferred metal so long as the core is provided with sharpened ends and has ore'receiving chambers 51 extending axially of the vehicle. The ore receiving chambers are partially operated on a capillary principle so that as the core is driven into the ocean floor the minerals collected in the ore receiving chambers 5i will be held in such chambers by the capillary action due to the size of the chambers.

The vehicle is provided with pipes 52 connected between the storage chambers of the tanks 8 and accelerating jets 53. The pipes 52 each have an elbow to provide a radial section 54 extending outwardly of the vehicle, and accelerating jets 53 are rotatably mounted on the outer ends of the radial sections 54.

As the vehicle descends and approaches the ocean floor, the sensors 23 open the valves 27 to cause the liquid II in the tanks 8 to be forced through the pipes 52 due to the pressure on the pistons 9 caused by the pressurized gas I0 in the upper portion of the tanks 8. The high velocity liquid passing through the pipe 52 is forced through radial section 54 and out of the accelerating jets 53 which are directed upwardly so as to accelerate the vehicle in a downward direction. The acceleration of the vehicle in response to the opening of the valves 27 causes the core to be driven into the heavy metal ores on the ocean floor and forces the ores into the capillary type chambers 51 of the core.

As the ores are driven into the chamber 51, a sensor element 55 is actuated. The sensor element 55 includes a rack 56 which is in engagement with a pinion 57 carried by a shaft 58. The shaft 58 has at its opposite end a second pinion 59 which engages a gear 60 formed integrally with the jets 53.

By providing only a limited rack section 56 which moves axially of the vehicle in response to the filling of one of the capillary chambers or tubes 51, the pinion 57 is caused to revolve through 180. Revolvement of the pinion 57 opperates to invert the jets 53 through rotation of shaft 58 and pinion 59 which engages the integral gear 60 on the jets 53. Thus, once the vehicle has reached the ocean floor and been accelerated into the minerals to be recovered, the jets are revolved 180 and directed downwardly so as to provide propulsion upwardly for the vehicle. This operates to assist in removing the core 50 from the heavy metal ores into which it had been embedded. I

As continuous high velocity liquid is passed through the pipes 52 and the jets 53 are revolved through the 180, for a brief span, the jets are all directed to provide rotational movement to the vehicle. That is, as the jets are turned they have a horizontal force component tending to rotate the vehicle l, and this assists in loosening the core 50 from its surrounding material so that when the jets reach full revoivement of 180 and are directed downwardly, the high pressure liquid passing through the jets may easily propel the vehicle from the ocean floor.

The exhausting of the liquid ll from the tanks 8 operates to increase the positive buoyancy of the vehicle so that the net buoyancy of the vehicle is sufficient to return the vehicle to the ocean surface in the same manner as previously described with respect to the vehicle of FIG. 1.

FIG. 6 illustrates a modification of the coring head of the vehicle of FIG. 5. The coring head includes a blade 61 having a knife edge 62 and an interlocking blade 63 having a knife edge 64. Blades 61 and 63 have centrally located slots 65 and 66 extending halfway therethrough to permit interlocking of the blades as shown in dotted lines in FIG. 6. Once the blades have been interlocked,

13 they are rigidly secured within the opening axial portion of the vehicle to provide the mining core 50.

FIGS. 7 to 11 illustrate various embodiments of the core head 50 including hexagonal, circular, triangular, square or rectangular and radial capillary chambers 51 formed in any convenient manner, through interlocking blades or otherwise to provide the core 50. Of course, each of the edges of the alternative core heads 50 is provided with a knife edge to assist the core in penetrating the heavy metal ores which it is designed to recover.

In order to prevent wash-out of the heavy metal ores recovered by the vehicle of FIG. a wash-out prevention device, as illustrated in FIGS. 12 and 13, may be provided. The washout device includes a sleeve 70 which may be positioned about either the outer surface 3 of body 2 or the core 50. Slidably mounted within the sleeve 70 are pair of doors 71. The doors 71 are slidably mounted on tracks 72 and positioned in the upstation as shown in full lines in FIG. 13 as the vehicle descends. Upon impact of the vehicle with the ocean floor, the doors are released and slide down the tracks 72 into the position shown in dotted lines. Alternatively, the doors may slide down the tracks 72 in response to the revolving of the jets 53 so that the doors will move into position to enclose the lower portion of the core 50 as the jets operate to accelerate and withdraw the core 50 from the heavy metal ores.

When the doors slide down the track 72 to the position shown in dotted lines, they are free to pivot about hinges 73 and operate as wash-out prevention structure by enclosing the area beneath the core 60. The doors will automatically pivot about the hinges 72 since the force of the vehicle moving upwardly and the water passing over the different surface areas of the vehicle tends to pivot the doors about the hinges 73 and causes 7 them to move into the down position as illustrated in FIG. 13.

An alternate method of rotating the jets 53 and of preventing wash-out of the minerals captured in the coring device is illustrated in FIG. 14. The jets 53 are locked in an upward vertical position by two hydrostatically balanced pressurized cylinders 80 and 81 attached to the jet nozzles through a shaft 82 and arranged parallel to the vertical axes of the jets. One of the pressure cylinders 80 is equipped on its bottom surface with a burst disc 83.

In place of the rack shown in the previous embodiments several of the cores are equipped with bayonets 84 aligned with the burst disc or check valve actuator of the pressurized cylinder 80 described above. Impact of the cores with the ocean floor will cause the bayonents 84 to penetrate the burst disc 83 due to the force on a staff 85 being driven upwardly by the minerals. When the bayonet 84 perforates the burst disc 83, allowing the hydrostatic fluid on one side of the nozzle to escape, the forces on shaft 82 become unbalanced thereby causing the jets to rotate 180 in a bearing 86 carried by body 2. A collar or stop member 87 is secured to the outer shell of the vehicle to limit rotation ofthe jets 53 to 180 so that the jet is secured in a position directed vertically downward.

In order to prevent wash-out of the minerals captured in the coring unit, a series of jets 88 are radially arranged in a direction so that material passing through the jets flows beneath the coring device. The staff 35 is sealed by members 89 and 90 which also operate as sleeve bearings for permitting the axial movement of the staff; and, when the imbalance is created by bursting the disc on one of the pressurized cylinders, rotation of the shaft 82 may be used to open a valve for directing a bleed-off portion of the water remaining in the tanks 8 into the corer 91 through the port92. Thus, the bleed-off water passing into the corer 91 is forced out of jets 88 and creates a force beneath the mining core for preventing wash-out of the mined materials.

As an alternate arrangement, the bleed-off port 92 could be provided with an open connection to the tanks with the staff being provided with a plug or other sealing member which seals the opening to the jets 88 so that the water may not escape through the jets until the shaft is forced axially upwardly to disengage the seal between the sealing member of the staff and the 1 opening passing to the jets 88 when the staff is actuated by engagement of the core with the ocean floor.

Another embodiment of the mining and mineral recovery vehicle of the present invention is illustrated in FIGS. 15 and 16 and includes a body integrally constructed of a positive buoyancy material, such as the syntactic foam matrix made up of microspheres and large, hollow spheres as described with respect to the vehicle of FIG. 1 and the modules of FIG. 4. The body 100 is integrally formed with an annular configuration in cross-section defining an outer cylindrical surface 102, an inner cylindrical surface 104, a bottom end surface 106 and a top end surface 108.

Body 100 is formed with six equally angularly spaced recesses 110 therein to receive six identical variable buoyancy tanks 112. The body is constructed in the same manner as described above with respect to the body 2 of the vehicle I of FIG. 1. That is, all of the required components and piping as well as the variable buoyancy tanks are properly positioned within a cylindrical shell, and thereafter the spaces within the shell are filled with microspheres and large hollow spheres. The resin is then sucked into the foam matrix, and the body is cured. It will be appreciated that any support structure to be carried by the vehicle and required to be of a material other than the positive buoyancy material may be integrally formed with the body 100 such that components to be carried thereby may be later secured thereto.

Each of the variable buoyancy tanks 112 includes a storage chamber 114 for storing a fluid 116, such as salt water, disposed over'a high pressure chamber 118 for storing a fluid 120, such as a gas, under high pressure. The variable buoyancy tanks 112, as illustrated in FIG. 16, are permanently secured within body 100; however, it will be appreciated that if it is desired to utilize replaceable variable buoyancy tanks, the body may be formed such that the tanks extend above the top end surface 108 as in the vehicle of FIG. 1. A valve 122. communicates with storage chamber 114 at the top thereof and may be opened in order to permit the filling of chamber H4 with fluid 116. Similarly, a valve 124 communicates with high pressure chamber 118 at the bottom thereof through a conduit 126 in order to permit the chamber 118 to be filled with a high pressure fluid such as compressed air supplied by a compressor carried by a mother ship. Communication between storage chamber 114 and high pressure chamber 118 is established through a conduit I28 and a control valve 130 which is normally closed and opened only to commence the mining operation.

Body 100 is formed with tending outwardly from outer cylindrical surface 102 as a payload is being collected. The top of bucket 136 may be provided with a collar 138 to engage a counterbore-type shoulder 140 formed in inner surface 104, and a plurality of lifting rings may be secured to collar 138 to facilitate removal of the bucket from the vehicle. Annular skirt 142 is formed with a collar 144 extending radially inwardly from the top thereof with the inner diameter of collar 144 corresponding to the outer diameter of cylindrical surface 102 of body 100. The bottom of collar 144 abuts shoulder .132 of body 100 due to the force from a piston rod 146 engaging an inner annular shoulder 148 carried by skirt 142. The piston carried by rod 146 cooperates with a pneumatic cylinder 150 which has a high pressure gas stored therein and communicates through a bleed line 152 with a rupturable disc 154 disposed adjacent the top end surface 108 of body 100. The rod, piston, pneumatic cylinder and rupturable disc define a shock absorber unit generally indicated at 156, and it will be appreciated. that as many such shock absorber units may be utilized with the vehicle as is desired with such shock absorber units preferably being six in number and being equally angular'ly spaced about the central axis of the vehicle.

Six impulse turbine wheels 158 are rotatably supported in the bottom edge of skirt 142 such that the periphery of wheels 158 extend below the bottom of the skirt to facilitate movement of the vehicle along the floor of the ocean. Any suitable journal and bearing structure maybe utilized to support the wheels 158 with such structure being able to withstand the pressure and general environment at the bottom of the ocean. The axles of of wheels 158 are all maintained? parallel such that the vehicle can be moved in a single direction. Extending from the bottom surface 106 of body 100 are a plurality of slip couplings 160 receiving'conduits 162, each of which extends from an outlet port 163 in the storage chambers 114 of the variable buoyancy tanks 112, and the conduits 162 each have an elbow disposed below slip couplings 160 supporting an impulse turbine nozzle 164. Nozzles 164 are each received within an opening in the outer shell of one of the turbines 158 to direct a liquid jet against blades of a rotating impeller 166 carried within the turbine wheels. A valve 168 is positioned in conduit 162 to control the flow of fluid 116 therethrough as will be described hereinafter with respect to the system schematically shown in FIG. 17.

The impulse water turbines 158 each have an exhaust port 170 which communicates through a conduit 172 and an eduction control valve 174 with a venturi unit 176. The conduit 172 communicates with the venturi unit 176 such that high velocity water enters around a conduit 178 to create a low pressure whereby minerals on the floor of the ocean are drawn into conduit 178 through eduction heads 180. The minerals are then entrained with the water and drawn up through an eduction pipe 182 to empty into bucket 136, the minerals being compacted in the bucket and the water being expelled through the perforations in the bucket and the space betweenthe bucket and the inner cylindrical surface 104 of body 100. A portion of the high velocity water'flowing through eduction pipe 182 flows through a movement booster conduit 1% to a nozzle 186 which is oriented to provide a jet of water therefrom in a direction opposite to the direction of travel of the vehicle. The nozzles 186 are aligned in parallel in order to obtain as much vehicle movement from the jets issuing therefrom as is possible. Deflection screens may be provided within conduits 184 in order to prevent mineral nodules from exiting therethrough.

In operation when the vehicle descends sufficiently to contact the floor of the ocean, pressure within cylinder 150 will be sufficiently increased due to the force tending to move skirt 142 towards body such that rupture disc 154 will break and permit slow exhaust of the pressure within cylinder through bleed line 152. Accordingly, the body 100 will slowly settle within skirt 142 until the bottom surface 106 of body 100 en gages shoulder 148. Thus, the shock of impact with the floor of the ocean will be absorbed by the shock absorber units, and the body will be moved to a position for mining such that eduction heads 186 are disposed adjacent the floor of the ocean as indicated in phantom at 180' in FIG. 16.

The operation of the vehicle of FIGS. 15 and 16 will be more clearly understood relative to FIG. 17 wherein the control system for the vehicle is schematically illustrated. The control system includes a sonic transducer 188, antenna 189, a source of electricity 1% and suitable receiving, transmitting and control circuitry 191 all encased in a protective housing 192. The control circuitry supplies output signals on a lead 193 to valves 130, 168 and 174, which valves are normally closed and may be electrically actuated to an open position such as by means of a solenoid. After the vehicle has contacted the floor of the ocean, a signal may be transmitted from the mother ship on the ocean surface and received by the sonic transducer to supply an electrical signal to lead 193 and open valves 130, 168 and 174. Accordingly, air from chamber 118 will flow through a pressure regulator 194, valve 130 and conduit 128 to storage chamber 114 to force fluid therefrom through a check valve 195,'valve 168 and conduit 162 to turbine nozzle 164 to rotate turbine wheel 158 in a counterclockwise direction looking at P10. 17. The high velocity fluid is expelled at exhaust port and supplied through conduit 172, a check valve 196 and valve 174 to venturi unit 176 where minerals from the floor of the ocean are entrained from eduction head and delivered to bucket 136. The velocity of the fluid contacting impeller blades 166 is desirably utilized to move the vehicle forward at a desired speed with the eduction picking up minerals as the vehicle moves.

A pressure control loop generally indicated at 198 is provided between conduit 128 and valve 130 and includes pressure transducer 200, a controller 202 which may be set by signalson lead 193 received from the mother ship and a gate 204 connected to receive inputs from the controller 202 and lead 193 to control the operation of valve 130. A similar control loop 205 is provided for valve 168 and includes a pressure transducer 206, a controller 208 and a gate 210. In operation, set points for controllers 202 and 208 may be adjusted by signals from the mother ship, and the set points are compared with the pressures sensed by transducers 200 and 206 by controllers 202 and 208, respectively, to provide output signals to control the positions of valves 130 and 168 in order to maintain the gas pressure supplied to tank 114 at a constant controllable level and to maintain the speed at which the vehicle moves at a constant controllable level. That is, the use of the control loops permits constant operation of the vehicle rather than a decaying operation as would normally occur with reduction of pressure in chamber 118. Once the water within chamber 114 is entirely exhausted, the valves may be closed and the vehicle will become buoyant and rise to the surface of the ocean at a desired speed.

A pressure relief valve 212 communicates with conduit 128 in order to bleed off any excess pressure in such conduit should the pressure control loop become inoperative, and a burst or rupture disc 214 is similarly in a communication with conduit 128 to provide fail safe operation to bring the vehicle to the surface should anything go wrong during operation of the vehicle. In the same manner as previously described with respect to the mineral and mining recovery vehicle of FIG. 1, once the burst disc 214 is ruptured, the air from chamber 118 will till a canopy to displace sufficient water to bring the vehicle to the surface of the ocean.

While the vehicle of FIGS. l5, l6 and 17 have been described as being operable in response to signals supplied from a mother ship, it will be appreciated that the legs or feelers 23 illustrated and described with respect to the vehicle of FIG. I may be utilized with the vehicles of FIGS. l5, l6 and 17 in order to commence the mining operation automatically upon descent of the vehicle to the ocean floor. Similarly, the various variable buoyancy tank, piping and filling valve modifications illustrated in the various embodiments of the present invention may be utilized with any of the other embodiments.

The vehicles illustrated in FIGS. 1, and 16 may be utilized as salvage vehicles in order to recover sunken vessels or other large objects from the ocean floor. In order to provide such salvage operations with the vehicles of the present invention, the vehicle or a plurality of such vehicles descend to the object to be raised and are attached thereto in any suitable manner, such as by a diver or a deep sea vessel having extensions to permit such attachment. Once the deep ocean vehicles of the present invention are suitably attached, a valve such as 27 in the embodiments of FIGS. I and 5 or H30 in the embodiment of FIG. 16 is opened to permit the high pressure fluid in the pressure chambers to expand and expel the fluid in the storage chambers thereby providing the vehicles with positive buoyancy. When the buoyancy equations including the weight of the object to be raised are satisfied, the vehicles along with the object to be raised will ascend to the surface of the ocean.

The control valves 27 or 130 may be remotely controlled from the mother ship or the diver or deep sea attaching vessel after all of the deep ocean vehicles of the present invention are properly attached. In order to facilitate initial movement of the object to be raised, the fluid expelled from the storage chambers is directed down towards the floor of the ocean and exits the vehicle from a nozzle to provide the function of a retroactive jet in a manner similar to that described with respect to the release of the coring section of the embodiment of FIG. 5.

While the previously described and illustrated embodiments of the deep ocean vehicle of the present invention can be utilized for salvage operations as described above, advantageously the vehicles are moditied to provide greater buoyancy change as permitted by the decreased depth to which the vehicles are to be submerged and the lack of a requirement for the payload receiving bucket and the mining equipment. That is, all equipment associated with the eduction and coring mining systems as well as, if desired, the means for removing the vehicles along the bottom of the ocean may be eliminated, and the negative buoyancy weight constituted thereby may be replaced with fluid in the storage chambers, which fluid is, of course, expelled during the salvage operation thereby greatly increasing the buoyancy of the vehicle. Furthermore, due to the decreased diving depth, the amount of fluid in the pressure chambers required to expel all of the fluid in the storage chambers is decreased thereby permitting more fluid to be stored in the storage chambers relative to the fluid in the pressure chambers. This change in ratio of the fluid in the storage chambers to the fluid in the pressure chambers permits additional positive buoyancy material to be added to the bodies 2 such that once the fluid in the storage chambers is expelled during the salvage operation, the buoyancy of the vehicle is substantially increased.

Thus, the use of the deep ocean vehicles of the present invention for salvage operations is extremely advantageous in that the vehicles may be used to salvage sunken vehicles and large objects that may not be conveniently reached by conduits extending from a compressor on a mother ship while still maintaining the capability of raising extremely large loads.

One of the distinct advantages of the mining, mineral recovery and salvage vehicles of the present invention over prior art deep submergence vehicles is that no outer shell is required to house the variable buoyancy and mining equipment of the vehicle. Accordingly, the weight of the vehicle is decreased substantially for submergence to deeper depths thereby providing greater relative payload capabilities with respect to overall vehicle weight. It should be noted, however, that a shell could be utilized, if desired, around the integral body of positive buoyancy material; but, as mentioned above, such shell does add undesired negative buoyancy to the vehicle.

The number of variable buoyancy tanks to be utilized with the vehicles of the present invention is, of course, variable in accordance with the weight and payload requirements for the vehicle. Advantageously, however, there is provided for each variable buoyancy tank a separate eduction mining system and, in the case of the vehicles of FIGS. 15, 16 and 17, a separate impulse turbine wheel. The variable buoyancy tanks may be constructed of any suitable metal such as steel, aluminum or titanium, for example, and the tanks may be formed with the body of positive buoyancy material so as to be removable as in the embodiment of FIG. I or perma' nently formed therein as in the embodiment of FIGS. 15 and 16.

of the body.

It is important, due to the great weight and momentum of the vehicles according to the present invention, that contact with the floor of the ocean be cushioned to some extent, for instance, by decreasing the speed of descent of the vehicle. Ac'cordingly,-in the embodiment of FIG. 1 the liquid jets issuing from ports 26 in response to opening of valve 27 by movement of legs 23 serve to provide a force in a direction opposite to the direction of descent of the vehicle to slow the descent speed thereof thereby cushioning contactof the vehicle with the floor of the ocean. in the embodiment of FIGS.

l5 and 16 contact is cushioned by means of the shock absorber units 156 which slowly permit the body to slide relative to the skirt and thereby cushion impact of the vehicle.

As used herein, the term negative buoyancy means the tendency of an article to sink in a fluid medium and the term positive buoyancy" means the tendency of an article to float or rise in a fluid medium.

As discussed above, the deep ocean vehicles of the present invention may be utilized for mining, mineral harvesting and salvage of sunken vessels or large submerged objects; and, further, the deep ocean vehicles of the present invention may be utilized to collect large tonnages of vegetation and fish live. The configuration of the integrally formed positive buoyancy bodies of the vehicles of the present invention may be varied dependent upon the intended utilization of the vehicle; however, advantageously the bodies are formed to be symmetrical about a central longitudinal axis.

inasmuch as the present invention is subject to many variations, modifications and changes in detail, it is intended that all matter described above or shown in the accompanying drawings be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense.

What is claimed is:

l. A deep ocean mining and mineral recovery vehicle comprising a rigid elongated body integrally formed of a positive buoyancy material, said body having an annular configuration and including a central chamber therein,

a plurality of cylindrical recesses concentrically arranged in said body about said central chamber, tank means including a plurality of variable buoyancy tanks each received in one of said recesses and each having a. variable buoyancy to provide a negative buoyancy relative to sea water during descent of said vehicle and a positive buoyancy relative to sea water during ascent of said vehicle,

removable payload receiving means in said central chamber, and

mining means for delivering minerals from below said vehicle upward to said payload receiving means.

- 2. A deep ocean mining and mineral recovery vehicle as recited in claim 1 in which-said mining means is removable at least in part.

3. A deep ocean mining and mineral recovery vehicle as recited in claim 1 including:

means extending from the bottom of said body to initially contact the surface on which said vehicle rests; and

shock absorbing means responsive to contact of said extending means with the surface on which said vehicle is to rest to slow the descent of said body.

' 4. The deep ocean mining and mineral recovery vehicle as recited in claim 3 wherein said extending means includes a plurality of elongated arms, said tank means includes first chamber means having pressurized fluid therein, second chamber means having fluid therein and control means responsive to movement of said legs to permit said pressurized fluid to expel said fluid from said second chamber means and said shock absorbing means includes nozzle means communicating with said second chamber means and directed toward the surface on which said vehicle is to rest whereby a jet of fluid from said second chamber means is issued from said nozzle means to provide a force on said vehicle opposite to the direction of descent.

5. The deep ocean mining and mineral recovery vehicle as recited in claim 3 wherein said extending means includes a skirt extending around the bottom of said body and axially slidable relative thereto, and said shock absorbing means includes fluidic control means having a first member carried by said body, a second member carried by said skirt and engaging said first member through a fluid under pressure and a rupturable disc permitting release of said fluid under pressure whereby said disc is ruptured upon contact of said skirt with the surface on which said vehicle is to rest.

6. The deep ocean mining and mineral recovery vehicle as recited in claim 5 wherein said first member is a cylinder and said second member is a rod and piston, said piston being disposed within said cylinder.

7. The deep ocean mining and mineral recovery vehicle as recited in claim i wherein said variable buoyancy tanks are removably received within said recesses.

8. The deep ocean mining and mineral recovery vehicle as recited in claim 1 wherein said variable buoyancy tanks are permanently received within said recesses, said variable buoyancy tanks each including a storage chamber, a high pressure chamber, an inlet port communicating with said storage chamber to fill said storage chamber with a first fluid and an inlet port communicating with said high pressure chamber to fill said high pressure chamber with a second fluid having a specific density substantially less than the specific density of said first fluid.

9. The deep ocean mining and mineral recovery vehicle as recited in claim 1 wherein said tank means includes storage chamber means having a first fluid therein, high pressure chamber means having a second fluid under pressure therein, and control means for expelling said first fluid from said storage chamber means by the pressure of said second fluid in said high pressure chamber means, and said mining means includes venturi means in communication with said storage chamber means to pass said first fluid, an eduction system communicating with said venturi means to receive minerals from the floor of the ocean, and conduit means communicating with said venturi means and said payload receiving means whereby minerals are delivered to said payload receiving means by eduction.

10. The deep ocean mining and mineral recovery vehicle as recited in claim 9 wherein said mining means includes jet means communicating with said venturi means to direct a jet of said first fluid toward the surface on which said vehicle rests.

11. The deep ocean mining and mineral recovery vehicle as recited in claim 10 wherein said mining means included accordion like skirt means depending from said body to engage the surface on which said vehicle rests to form a suction chamber.

12. The deep ocean mining and mineral recovery vehicle as recited in claim 9 and further comprising inflatable safety means, and means controlling communication between said high pressure chamber means and said safety means to permit inflation thereof whereby said vehicle may ascend to the surface of the ocean.

13. The deep ocean mining and mineral recovery vehicle as recited in claim 1 wherein said payload receiving means includes a filter disposed within said bucket.

14. The deep ocean mining and mineral recovery vehicle as recited in claim 1 wherein said tank means includes first chamber means having pressurized gas therein and second chamber means having liquid therein, and means responsive to the resting of said vehicle on a surface to permit said pressurized gas to expel said liquid and fill said second chamber means whereby said vehicle is raised.

15. The deep ocean mining and mineral recovery vehicle as recited in claim 1 wherein said mining means and said payload receiving means are embodied in a core extending from the bottom of said body, said core having a plurality of chambers thereon to capture minerals.

16. The deep ocean mining and mineral recovery vehicle as recited in claim wherein said tank means includes first chamber means having pressurized gas therein and second chamber means having liquid therein, and means responsive to the resting of said vehicle on a surface to permit said pressurized gas to expel said liquid and fill said second chamber means whereby said vehicle is raised.

17. The deep ocean mining and mineral recovery vehicle as recited in claim 16 and further comprising jet means communicating with said second chamber means to pass liquid expelled therefrom to force said core into the surface on which said vehicle rests.

l8. The deep ocean mining and mineral recovery vehicle as recited in claim 17 wherein said jet means extends externally of said body and is rotatable 180.

19. The deep ocean mining and mineral recovery vehicle as recited in claim 18 and further comprising control means responsive to movement of said core into the surface on which said vehicle rests to rotate said jet means whereby said vehicle is rotated and forced away from the surface on which said vehicle rests.

20. The deep ocean mining and mineral recovery ve' hicle as recited in claim 15 and further comprising means disposed adjacent said core to prevent washout of minerals captured in said chambers.

21. The deep ocean mining and mineral recovery vehicle as recited in claim 20 wherein said washout prevention means includes a plurality of nozzles projecting liquid jets in a direction transverse to the direction of ascent of said vehicle 22. The deep ocean mining and mineral recovery vehicle as recited in claim 20 wherein said washout prevention means includes a pair of doors hingedly supported on said body, said doors being pivotably movable to cover said chambers of said core during ascent of said vehicle.

23. The deep ocean mining and mineral recovery vehicle as recited in claim 1 wherein said tank means includes first chamber means having pressurized fluid therein, second chamber means having liquid therein and control means for permitting said pressurized fluid to expel said fluid in said second chamber means, and further comprising nozzle means communicating with said second chamber means to issue a jet of said fluid from said second chamber means to cause movement of said vehicle along a surface on which said vehicle rests.

24. The deep ocean mining and mineral recovery vehicle as recited in claim 23 wherein said nozzle means includes a plurality of nozzles extending above said body and aligned in parallel relation.

25. The deep ocean mining and mineral recovery vehicle as recited in claim 23 and further comprising turbine wheel means receiving said fluid jet from said nozzle means, said turbine wheel means supporting said body and being rotatable along the surface on which said vehicle rests.

26. The deep ocean mining and mineral recovery vehicle as recited in claim 25 wherein said mining means includes an eduction system having a venturi unit communicating with an eduction head disposed adjacent the surface on which said vehicle rests and conduit means communicating with said payload receiving means, and said turbine wheel means includes an exhaust port communicating with said venturi unit whereby fluid from said second chamber means is utilized to rotate said turbine wheel means and is supplied through said exhaust port to said venturi unit to operate said eduction mining system.

* k l l

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Classifications
U.S. Classification175/6, 114/313, 37/313, 405/191, 37/314, 175/254, 114/331, 175/58, 114/337, 37/309
International ClassificationE02F3/88, E21B7/124, E21C50/00, B63C11/34, B63C7/08, E21B25/18, E02F7/00, E21B25/10, E21C45/00
Cooperative ClassificationE21C50/00, E21B25/18, B63C11/34, B63G2008/004, E21B7/124, E21B25/10, E02F7/005, E02F3/8858, B63C7/08
European ClassificationE21C50/00, B63C11/34, E21B25/18, E02F3/88F, E21B7/124, E02F7/00B, B63C7/08, E21B25/10