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Sub Biosphere 2: designs for a self-sustainable underwater world


June 23, 2010

Sub-Biosphere 2 is a concept for a self-sustaining marine environment for human, animal and plant life.

Sub-Biosphere 2 is a concept for a self-sustaining marine environment for human, animal and plant life.

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Phil Pauley, a London-based concept designer, has unveiled his vision for Sub-Biosphere 2 – a self-sustainable underwater habitat designed for aquanauts, tourism and oceanographic life sciences as well as long-term human, plant and animal habitation. If this sounds like a strangely familiar concept, it’s because Pauley’s system is based on the successes of the Biosphere 2 project – a man-made closed-ecological system in Arizona that was used by researchers to explore the possibility of sustainable living in a closely-monitored environment.

Sub-Biosphere 2

Unlike Biosphere 2 – which features above-ground biomes including a rainforest, an ocean complete with coral reef and wetlands, grasslands desert, Pauley’s vision focuses on developing self-sustainable living under the water. The Sub-Biosphere 2 (SBS2) will have a central supporting biome powering and controlling eight interactive living biomes – each representing a different eco system. According to Pauley, all life-support systems for air, water, food, electricity, and other resources will be sustained by the innovative control of variant atmospheric pressures that occur at depth. The SBS2 will also act as a seed bank supporting the human, animal and plant life in the biomes.

The SBS2 will be able to float or submerge and as it dives, the pressure at depth against the forces of air would act like a heart and lungs, sustaining the life within the biomes. The central support biome will monitor the life systems from within its own operations facility.

Pauley developed this underwater habitat concept way back in 1998, and his current work continues to focus on sustainable and innovative design. He hopes to generate enough investment and support globally to establish a team that could take the SBS2 project through the research, testing and construction phases. This would allow him to focus and consult on how best to promote its development.

The Biosphere 2 Project

Biosphere 2 was constructed between 1987 and 1991 to develop self-sustaining technology that could eventually be used for space colonization. Set over three acres, it was a totally sealed environment (i.e. nothing went in or out), it had a steel and glass top and contained all the humans, plants, animals and bacteria required to live a sustainable life. Between 1991 and 1994, two missions with crew members known as "Biospherians" entered the Biosphere where they lived in the enclosed and isolated artificial environment. In the first mission, the inhabitants suffered from oxygen depletion but eventually discovered the scientific reasons and proved (to some extent) that this sort of living was viable. The project was a highly public exercise but valuable research came out of it that helped to further ecological understanding. The second mission was terminated in 1994 and the site is now managed by the University of Arizona where it serves as a center for research, teaching and learning about Earth and its living systems.

Some put the eventual failure of the Biosphere 2 project down to human nature – caused by either factional splits within the group of Biospherians, feelings of isolation or problems with the management team. So time will tell whether Pauley will be able to overcome the problems associated with confining human beings into his SBS2...

Read more about Pauley’s design ideas at his personal and business websites. For information about the Biosphere 2 see the University of Arizona's website about the research centre.



bio-power jeff
Obviously someone who knows little designed this. A 8\'x10\'x10\' room needs to weigh 52klbs just to sink!! That alone makes the project uneconomical underwater. Why does it need to be sealed off? That just greatly increases cost. I\'m a RE, EV and boat designer and lived on the water for decades and have designed practical both underwater and on the water communities but underwater ones need to conserve space or just won\'t work. Thus growing food, ect inside is not practical. But lots of space for sea farming outside or on the surface. The designer needs to stop smoking such good stuff and do some basic math. But designed right there is no reason water living can\'t be done well. I\'ve done it at less cost than living on land. One just need to be practical. In fact it a solution to many problems. Afterall a cruise ship is basically a city on the water. With RE energy and a few design changes for people to make a living they could easily be homes to millions of people. jerryd


\"Biosphere 2 was constructed between 1987 and 1991 to develop self-sustaining technology that could eventually be used for space colonization.\"

See those few words at the end? \"for space colonisation\"

That\'s why they were experimenting with a fully enclosed environment, where they grow everything inside. You don\'t want to have to open the door much when you\'re not on Earth. :P

Jacob Shepley

\"A 8\'x10\'x10\' room needs to weigh 52klbs just to sink!!\"

It\'s called \"ballast.\" It\'s a familiar concept to mariners and submariners. Fill the ballast hoppers with cheap heavy material (like rocks) to sink, empty to float.

\"Why does it need to be sealed off?\"

...because it\'s a RESEARCH PROJECT into a self-sustaining, SEALED environment. It isn\'t intended simply as a novel place to live and/or work. The results may benefit space exploration and colonization. or may prove valuable for designing self-contained underwater industrial facilities that need to be isolated from the outside environment.

I\'d like to see a few cruise ships converted into marine research vessels. Perhaps they could be leased by research institutions during the off-season, or perhaps the cruise lines could donate their older and/or less-profitable models to research entities.

William Lanteigne

Relax, guys. This will never see the light of day. It\'s from a concept designer. They usually don\'t know much about engineering and come up with all sorts of unfeasible concepts. Look at all those glass or plastic panels. You\'re talking about major problems with leakage and pressure resistance. As for sinking the whole thing, good luck with that. Aircraft carriers displace 100,000 tons, yet they don\'t sink. With the enormous volume of air in those domes that seem to dwarf ships in the renderings, you\'d need hundreds of millions of tons of ballast. Any submarine engineer would laugh his head off at this. I think Pauley\'s been watching reruns of Stargate Atlantis.

Biosphere 2 was a scientific fiasco.

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