How You Could Someday Get From China to San Fran in 100 Minutes
Supersonic vessel will fly through the water in air bubble, say researchers
By Jenn Gidman, Newser Staff
Posted Aug 26, 2014 2:40 PM CDT
China says it's one step closer to creating a sub that could get from Shanghai to San Francisco in less than two hours.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Never heard of the term “supercavitation”? China’s about to school us all with its announcement that it’s making progress on a supersonic submarine that uses this technology, theoretically giving the underwater vessel the capability to zip along at the speed of sound, reports the South China Morning Post. A sub that can reach a top speed of 3,600mph could make it from Shanghai to San Francisco in 100 minutes, according to a California Institute of Technology report cited in the Morning Post. An engineering professor involved with the project says such technology could have future military, civilian transport, and water sports applications.

Supercavitation technology works by surrounding an underwater vehicle such as a sub in an “air bubble” to cut down on water resistance against the surface area of the vessel. Two problems have previously hampered using this technology: The sub would have to be launched at more than 60mph to keep the air bubble intact, and steering inside the air bubble is extremely difficult. Chinese scientists claim they’ve almost got a handle on those two issues, though there are other problems they still have to tackle before such a high-tech submarine would be possible. For comparison, today’s fastest subs crawl through the surf at a mere 46mph, according to the Washington Post—which doubts that even a sub using supercavitation would ever reach 3,600mph, but notes that torpedoes using similar technology have hit 230mph. (In more cool tech news, check out the "skin" that could someday help planes detect trouble.)

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Showing 3 of 42 comments
Lou Bernardo
Sep 5, 2014 9:27 PM CDT
I'll believe it when the predictions at the 1964 NY World's Fair come true that by 1980 we'd have automated highways and every family would own their own airplane.
Bohdi Satva
Aug 30, 2014 6:34 PM CDT
Why stop at 3,600 mph? Prepare ship for ludicrous speed! Fasten all seatbelts, seal all entrances and exits, close all shops in the mall, cancel the three ring circus, secure all animals in the zoo!
Ezekiel 25:17
Aug 27, 2014 7:28 PM CDT
Ah, I know the way to foil this system. You would need to have a weapon armed with anti-surfactants. It would prevent the formation of bubbles. The perfect ingredient is called water wetter. It has been used by firemen by some departments but now the use is more common in engines like race cars and Land Rovers. It eliminates the formation of bubbles in a cooling system and also makes the water hug the metal linings. You can see it at a lot of the auto parts store in a clear bottle and the liquid is greenish or pink. You would have to determine the path of the sub and then introduce a depth charge loaded with it. I imagine it would be like shooting a bullet into a swimming pool.