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

(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.)

China says it's one step closer to creating a sub that could get from Shanghai to San Francisco in less than two hours.
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)
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