Battery technology for underwater applications might seem a little strange to the uninitiated. Perhaps this is down to our understandable impression that water and electricity are not always the happiest of bedfellows. But it ceases to be strange the moment you think about it for more than a second. From diving lights to cameras and ECCRs, so much diving equipment requires electrical power and, naturally enough, has to be powered by batteries. You can’t exactly connect yourself to a large wire, and there certainly aren’t many independent sources of power beneath the waves!
The Battery Revolution
However, that is not to say that how batteries work in diving applications is well understood – it isn’t. Just like in so many areas, battery power for undersea applications is in a near constant state of development. On dry land, the lithium-ion battery has made everything from Tesla’s electric vehicles to USB C rechargeable smart batteries possible. And it seems like there are new products like this being developed nearly every other year.
After all, the electric car revolution is going to require a lot more batteries if car companies are going to hit their targets of clearing the roads of gas-powered vehicles by the 2030s. Furthermore, batteries are being touted as energy solutions to reduce our reliance of fossil fuels and are appearing in more and more traditional household products, just like the aforementioned smart batteries produced by high-tech battery-devoted start-ups like Pale Blue Earth. Why would diving, which already relies extensively on battery power, be any different? As above, so below.
Battery Use in Diving
To see where underwater batteries are going, it might be worth first looking at from whence they came:
The first devices which stored electricity and were taken with divers underwater were diving lights. This was the first diving revolution brought about by battery technology. Beforehand, divers could only dive during the day, and they could only dive so deep (as any diver will know, light disappears pretty rapidly as you descend). Night diving has never been especially popular, but it has to be done sometimes. Think of police frogmen looking for evidence at night in a murky river, or rescue workers.
After the lights came the cameras and the rise of underwater photography. For oceanologists, underwater photography was another revolution – again brought about by battery power. Naturally, underwater photography has a military importance too.
These devices were all powered by waterproof battery packs, and they were usually lead acid or nickel cadmium batteries. But that was soon to change.
These days, serious divers are availed with a range of innovative technologies, from communication devices to tracking technology and ever more powerful cameras and lights. What has made this possible, like almost everything else in the battery world, was the development of the lithium-ion battery, which offers considerably more power, for longer, and is chargeable.
So, batteries are not just changing the diving world, but in fact have always been a part of it. The future seems likely to involve diving devices that provide all the same functionality as those used on dry land and which can also be charged while underwater. Eventually, it seems likely that every piece of advanced electrical equipment a diver uses will be able to hold more than enough charge for even the longest dives.
This means, simply, that divers will be diving for longer and taking more advanced measurements and readings as they dive. They will also be safer. Appropriately for a technology which began with diving lights, the future of batteries and diving looks very bright indeed.