How did the implosion happen?
According to submarine expert Eric Fusil from the University of Adelaide, an implosion in the Titan submarine would likely have been caused by a flood or a failure of the pressure vessel.
He explained that such a “catastrophic event” would have occurred within 20 milliseconds. The pressure hull of the Titan was composed of titanium and a new composite material made of carbon fibers.
Professor Fusil described the titanium pressure vessel as highly elastic, capable of being crushed and then returning to its original shape. However, he emphasized that the carbon fibers were entirely different, being very stiff.
The opposing forces of these materials created a challenge. Professor Fusil regarded this design as experimental and stated that it was too early to determine if it caused the issues.
Professor Fusil also noted that the five passengers inside the Titan submersible would not have been aware of the implosion occurring due to the rapidity of the event. He explained that implosions are similar to popping a balloon, as described by forensic engineer Bart Kemper.
Once the integrity of the pressure vessel is compromised, whether from internal or external pressure, the implosion occurs, resulting in a complete collapse.
What made it ‘catastrophic’?
In 2018, submarine experts, including Bart Kemper, warned OceanGate, the company operating the Titan, that without proper industry oversight, the submersible exposed passengers to potential catastrophic failure.
The term “catastrophic implosion” refers to the fragmentation and disintegration of the hull, which is constructed using carbon fiber reinforced plastic. Unlike metals, this material does not possess ductility, leading to a catastrophic collapse when it implodes.
Professor Brizzolara explained that carbon reinforced plastic collapses in a catastrophic manner due to its lack of ductility compared to metal alloys.
Currently, regulations and standards for underwater vehicles intended for deep-sea operations primarily consider high-strength steel or titanium alloys used in naval submarines.
This is why composite materials like carbon fiber are not widely used in such applications.
Will rescuers be able to recover the bodies of the Titan five?
The US Coast Guard declined to provide a timeline for the recovery of the bodies of the five individuals who lost their lives on the Titan submarine. Rear Admiral John Mauger acknowledged the harsh and unforgiving conditions of the sea floor where the vessel imploded, resulting in debris.
He stated that the search efforts would persist in that area, but he couldn’t offer any prospects for recovery at the moment.
Unfortunately, it appears highly improbable that the search team will be able to retrieve the bodies. The immense pressure at the ocean depths where the wreckage lies makes it unlikely for the bodies to be in a recognizable condition.
Moreover, the sheer task of locating the bodies amidst the extensive debris, which spans over a kilometer, poses a significant challenge for the rescuers.
Lawrence Brennan, a professor at Fordham University’s School of Law, explained that attempting to locate the bodies would necessitate equipment that is not currently available at the search site.
Even with the appropriate equipment, the chances of successfully recovering the bodies remain slim.