Breathing oxygen-enriched liquid could allow divers to reach depths of over 3,000 feet without having to rely on bulky suits or worry about decompression sickness, but it'll require some pretty serious body hacking to make it happen.
The idea of breathing oxygenated liquid instead of air isn't a new one. The U.S. Navy has been working on it since the '80s, scientists have proven that it works on mice, and those guys in The Abyss seemed to have it all figured out. The big advantage is that since you're not breathing air, you don't have to worry about decompression sickness, where dissolved gases in your bloodstream react to pressure changes like Mentos reacting with Coke.
The problem has been that the human body isn't physically capable of inhaling and exhaling liquid fast enough to absorb enough oxygen and get rid of enough carbon dioxide, but one doctor has proposed a solution that involves several entirely unpleasant body hacks.
First, divers would wear a helmet that filled with a perfluorochemical liquid infused with oxygen. They'd have to breathe the liquid in without gagging, which would either mean a bunch of training, drugs or a tube down their throat. To exchange the liquid through their lungs, divers would wear a cuirass around their chest that would use a pump to force them to breathe quickly enough to prevent suffocation. This still doesn't solve the problem of carbon dioxide removal, though. For that, a catheter would have to be inserted into the femoral artery, which would send blood through a membrane filter to scrub the CO₂ out directly.
Now, I can understand the appeal of being able to slap on a helmet and go diving as deep as you want without having to worry about decompression, but when it involves shoving a tube down my throat and sucking my blood out through a filter, all those traditional dive tables and bottom times and decompression stops start to seem pretty friendly, even if recreational scuba diving does still carry the risk of an air embolism making your brain explode.
You know what, maybe I'll just go lie on the beach instead.
via New Scientist