Is Triton, The Underwater Breathing Gill, a Scam?

The TRITON Portable Oxygen Respirator Has Raced Past Its Initial Crowdfunding Goal.

We recently covered the fact that Triton, the supposed underwater breathing gill, has raised over $600,000 in crowd-funding however how viable is this device and is it science fiction?

The premise is that a compact and simple device will allow you to “breathe underwater” by “extracting oxygen under water through a filter made of fine threads with holes smaller than water molecules”.

A graphic showing what the makers of the device say is the breakdown of components in the Triton

To backup their claims they have slick graphics showing the components of the device along with a video showing someone swimming underwater with what looks like a version of the Triton in their mouth.

Despite some slick graphics and the video, their Indiegogo crowdfunding page and the product website are actually very light on details or science of how the device works.  In responding to comments on the Indiegogo website one of the Triton team says this is “due to our patents”.

So what are the issues?

There are several raised by experts and commentators about the device:

  1. The device has to be able to extract enough oxygen from the water to allow you to actually breath.  This is possible in theory however as pointed out in an article on Deep Sea News in 2014 (when the device first came to light as a concept) it requires not only an incredibly efficient ability to extract the oxygen – which the designers say is down to a new Microporous Hollow Fiber – but also water has to be forced through the device at upward of five liters every 15 seconds which could only be achieved with a pump bigger than the whole Triton design.
  2. Next is the issue of storing the gas in a chamber – this would require a compressor and battery “order of magnitude more efficient than anything on the market today”.  The makers claim on the website that they have a “very powerful modified micro compressor” but again without any real proof.
  3. Let’s say they’ve managed to crack those two issues the next one is the ability to deliver the oxygen to you in the right amount at the right pressure to be able to breathe.  This is possible as we see it in open-circuit Scuba systems and in Closed Circuit Rebreathers however, again, there is no technology on the market right now that can achieve such a feat in such a small design.
  4. Finally there is the video, on face value it looks like there is a working unit, however on close inspection you can see that it is made up of several short clips where the person seems to be getting progressively more negatively buoyant (probably due to expelling air from their lungs to create the “bubbles” from the device) and no clip ever shows a person underwater for longer than one minute.  As we know from Freediving that is not even a difficult breath-hold for most people.

All-in-all the possibility of a device such as Triton is not beyond the realm of possibility at some point, sadly though the challenges faced by the designers just do not seem to be reasonably solved with technology available today.  The designers would have had to have developed 3 or 4 incredibly efficient and compact new technologies to make this possible.

Triton, World’s First Artificial Gills Re-breather – supposedly?

Dr Neal Pollock from Divers Alert Network has given his opinion on the above issues to an article on Business Insider where he says:

“In concept it sounds very good and it’s very exciting, but I would not encourage anyone pulling out a wallet.”

This is because “the technological challenges involved in creating a device like Triton are so vast that it’s not realistic, it’s science fiction — more in the realm of James Bond in “Thunderball” or Jedi knights in “Star Wars: Episode I.”

We have sent requests to the team working on the device about some of the issues raised but have yet to hear a response.

In the meantime – we suggest you put your wallet away and watch this space to see what the real truth is behind this project but for now we have to say every indication is that this is a scam.