Patent application title: UNDERWATER BREATHING APPARATUS AND METHOD OF USE
Joseph P. Miholics (Clearfield, PA, US)
IPC8 Class: AB63C1116FI
Class name: Surgery respiratory method or device draw-type snorkel
Publication date: 2012-07-12
Patent application number: 20120174921
An underwater breathing apparatus has a flotation device; and an air
conduit comprising at least one air inlet and at least one air outlet in
fluid communication with each other; at least two one-directional air
valves oriented in the same direction and disposed between the at least
one air inlet and the at least one air outlet, and a mouthpiece disposed
between the air valves, wherein the at least one air inlet is mounted to
the flotation device. During operation, the at least one or more air
inlets are maintained above water by the flotation device while a
submerged user breathes through the mouthpiece.
1. An underwater breathing apparatus, the apparatus comprising an air
conduit comprising at least one air inlet and at least one air outlet in
fluid communication with each other; at least two one-directional air
valves disposed between the at least one air inlet and the at least one
air outlet; a mouthpiece disposed between the air valves; and flotation
means; wherein upon activation by a user breathing using the mouthpiece,
only one of the at least two one-direction air valves is open at any
2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the at least one air inlet is configured and disposed to remain in substantially continuous communication with air above the water surface when the device is in use by a submerged user.
3. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein the apparatus further comprises a counterweight for maintaining the flotation means in a desired orientation.
4. The apparatus of claim 3, wherein the counterweight is configured and disposed to further maintain the air inlet in a desired orientation.
5. The apparatus of claim 4, wherein the flotation means includes means for engaging the air conduit.
6. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein the means for engaging the air conduit is comprised of at least one of elastic members, tethers, grooves in a flotation device, or apertures through a flotation device.
7. The apparatus of claim 6, wherein the flotation device comprises a buoyant gas.
8. The apparatus of claim 6, wherein the flotation device comprises a buoyant liquid.
9. The apparatus of claim 6, wherein the flotation device comprises a buoyant solid.
10. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein the flotation means is configured and disposed to function as a reverse anchor.
11. The apparatus of claim 10, wherein the flotation means and the length of the air conduit are selected to allow an user to remain submerged at desired constant depth.
12. The apparatus of claim 6, wherein the device further includes means for preventing water from entering an air intake opening associated with any air inlet.
13. The apparatus of claim 12, wherein the means for preventing water from entering an air intake opening include at least one of a hood portion, ball valve, flap, or a membrane.
14. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the overall length of the apparatus between the air intake opening and the mouthpiece is between about 2 feet to about 12 feet.
15. The apparatus of claim 14, wherein the air conduit comprises flexible hosing.
16. The apparatus of claim 15, wherein the hosing is substantially non-compressible.
17. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the at least two one-directional valves include an intake valve and an exhaust valve.
18. The apparatus of claim 17, wherein the intake valve is closer to the mouthpiece than to the inlet opening.
19. The apparatus of claim 17, wherein the intake valve is less than about 3 inches from the mouthpiece, and wherein the exhaust valve is less than about 3 inches from the mouthpiece.
20. The apparatus of claim 17, wherein the exhaust valve is configured and disposed to allow a higher passage of air flow than the intake valve.
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
 This application claims priority under 35 U.S.C. §119(e) to U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/241,995, filed Sep. 14, 2009, which is incorporated by reference herein in its entirety.
 Not Applicable
 This application describes an underwater breathing apparatus and a method of snorkeling using the apparatus. While modern underwater breathing equipment permits humans to remain submerged for extended periods, they suffer from a number of drawbacks. For example, using a conventional snorkel of approximately 18 inches in length, the user must hold his breath in order to dive deeper than the length of the snorkel. Using scuba diving equipment, a user may remain submerged for extended periods of time. Such scuba equipment, however, is expensive and not suitable for use by novice operators. Moreover, transporting and maintaining scuba gear, as well as refilling air tanks, can be inconvenient. Accordingly, a continuing and unmet need exists for new and improved underwater breathing equipment.
 This invention provides an inexpensive, portable underwater breathing apparatus that is easy to use. In an exemplary embodiment, an underwater breathing apparatus has a flotation device; and an air conduit comprising at least one air inlet and at least one air outlet in fluid communication with each other; at least two one-directional air valves oriented in the same direction and disposed between the at least one air inlet and the at least one air outlet, and a mouthpiece disposed between the air valves, wherein the at least one air inlet is mounted to the flotation device. During operation, the at least one or more air inlets are maintained above water by the flotation device while a submerged user breathes through the mouthpiece. Additional features may be understood by referring to the accompanying drawings, which should be read in conjunction with the following detailed description and examples.
DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 Aspects, features, benefits and advantages of the present invention will be apparent with regard to the following description and accompanying drawings, of which:
 FIG. 1 schematically illustrates an exemplary underwater breathing apparatus in accordance with an embodiment hereof.
 FIG. 2 schematically illustrates an exemplary underwater breathing apparatus in accordance with another embodiment hereof.
 The so-called "SnorkDaddy®" underwater breathing apparatus of the present invention is a submersible and fully functional snorkeling device that permits a human operator to remain further or deeper beneath water while snorkeling, rather than remaining semi-level or in close proximity with the waterline as is required in conventional snorkeling using short snorkels. In one embodiment of the invention, an underwater breathing apparatus has a flotation device; and an air conduit comprising at least one air inlet and at least one air outlet in fluid communication with each other; at least two one-directional air valves oriented in the same direction and disposed between the at least one air inlet and the at least one air outlet, and a mouthpiece disposed between the air valves, wherein the at least one air inlet is mounted to the flotation device.
 The flotation device is a reversed anchor (i.e., a floating anchor, rather than a sinking anchor) permitting the snorkeling device to function independently and without human manipulation while the operator is completely submerged. The flotation device functions to maintain the air inlet(s) above the waterline during use, and therefore the air inlet(s) are mounted to the flotation device. Preferably, the flotation device orients the air inlet(s) so that they do not become submerged or permit water to enter the air conduit during use or otherwise interfere with operation of the breathing apparatus. Suitable flotation devices include, in principle, any water-compatible buoyant object, such as air-filled or air-fillable balls, balloons, foams, and the like. For example, the flotation device may be a beach ball.
 The air conduit defines the air pathway or umbilical line from air inlet(s) to the air outlet(s), and it conveys air from above the waterline to the submerged user during operation. Flexible plastic tubing or housing is a suitable material for the air conduit. The air conduit preferably is of sufficient length to permit the user to venture away from the waterline. For example, the air conduit may be made from a length of tubing in the range of about 3 feet to about 20 feet. For a breathing apparatus intended for recreational use, a length of 18 feet is suitable. In order to prevent a user from getting "the bends," the total length between the flotation device(s) and the mouthpiece is preferably less than about 33 feet. The air conduit should also not collapse or become kinked while submerged. In order to provide an adequate volume of air to the user, it should have an inner diameter of between about 1/4 inch and about 11/2 inches depending on the number of inlets and the volume of air that is to be conveyed by the apparatus to the submerged user. It should also be non-collapsible up to about two atmospheres of pressure.
 The breathable air provided by the breathing apparatus is supplied by the natural atmospheric volume of air located above the water body (e.g., swimming pool, lake, ocean, or sea). This feature is an advantage over conventional scuba diving in which air must be provided by a scuba tank or compressed air tanks. Accordingly, the breathing apparatus includes at least one air inlet and at least one air outlet in fluid communication with each other. During operation, supply air is drawn into the inlet(s) and it is expelled from the outlet(s). The inlet(s) and outlets(s) may simply be apertures in the air conduit, for example, the open ends of a piece of flexible tubing. Alternatively, the inlet(s) and outlet(s) may be formed from rigid plastic tubing. The air inlet(s) may optionally also include valves to prevent unwanted water intrusion.
 The breathing apparatus also includes at least two one-directional air valves oriented in the same direction and disposed between the air inlet(s) and the air outlet(s). The air valves orient airflow from the inlet(s) to the outlet(s), and they prevent exhaled air from comingling with fresh air. The two one-directional valves are oriented in the same direction but work in opposing manners. As one opens the other closes, and as one closes the other opens. Both one-directional valves work simultaneously, depending on the user's respiratory inhalation and exhalation. Various types of directional valves may be used, e.g., check-valves, butterfly valves, diaphragms, and the like. The valves are located, for example, at a position along the air conduit such that they are fully submerged below the water surface at all times while the breathing apparatus is in use. A preferred valve is a silicone center-mount diaphragm valve.
 The breathing apparatus also includes a replaceable mouthpiece that is disposed in communication with the air inlet(s) and located between the air valves through which a human user draws fresh air. The human respiratory system is the sole driving factor and mechanism between inlet fresh air and exhaust air, and unlike with compressed air (i.e., conventional) scuba gear, a regulator is not necessary.
 Different embodiments of the SnorkDaddy® breathing apparatus may be configured for commercial, recreational, military, or other uses. The breathing apparatus may also be configured for contained bodies of water (e.g., swimming pools) and non-contained or open-water snorkeling (e.g., lakes, oceans, or seas). When used in contained bodies of water, the breathing apparatus may have a shorter length (i.e., depth) of umbilical tether. For open-water snorkeling, the length (i.e., depth) of the umbilical tether may be longer. Additionally, an open-water breathing apparatus may optionally include a safety floating marker (e.g., a "diver's flag") and have a permanently inflated or inflatable (or any buoyant material) flotation device to ensure greater diving depth and provide maximum safety for this classification of snorkeling.
 Referring to the attached drawings, FIG. 1 illustrates a breathing apparatus 10 in accordance with an exemplary embodiment hereof. The arrows indicate the direction of airflow through the breathing apparatus 10. Air intake 200 includes rigid tubing members 209 which include air intake openings 210 and are mounted to flotation device 300, such as an inflated sphere 307 with tether elastic straps 308. Joining tee 212 connects tubing members 209 to tubing air supply line 1, which forms an air conduit. Air enters the air intake openings 210 and is drawn through the air intake 200 by an inhaling human operator. Air passes through a supply-side valve 600 to mouthpiece 700 where it is inhaled by the human user using mouthpiece 700. When the user exhales, exhaust air is restricted from passing backwards through supply-side valve 600, but instead passes through a one-directional exhaust-side valve 800, and it exits the air outlet through optional tubes 11. For convenience, mouthpiece 700 is connected to supply-side valve 600 by pipe or tubing, which may be made from molded or extruded plastic, for example. The breathing apparatus 10 also optionally includes goggle mounts 5.
 FIG. 2 illustrates another embodiment of the apparatus. In this embodiment, the apparatus 10 includes an optional diver's flag 100, air intake 200, a flotation device 300, a counterbalance weight 400, and other elements as described herein. The air intake 200 includes the air intake opening 210 configured and disposed for directing ambient air into the breathing apparatus 10. The air intake 200 includes a conduit body portion 204 that communicably links the air intake opening 210 to an opposite bottom end 220. The conduit body portion 204 is configured and disposed to accommodate attachment of a flotation device 300, the flotation device 300 in this embodiment is shown as a disc of buoyant material such as Styrofoam. The conduit body portion 204 in this embodiment also provides for the counterbalance weight 400. The counterbalance weight 400 can be attached to, or integral with, the conduit body portion 204, and serves to keep the flotation device 300, and the associated air intake 200 in a desired orientation to ensure that the air intake opening 210 is in substantially constant communication with ambient air, and does not become undesirably submerged in surrounding water bodies during use. In one embodiment, air intake opening 210 can include a ball valve, membrane, or other device to prevent water from entering air intake 200.
 As further shown in FIG. 2, a bottom end 220 is communicably connected to a flexible air conduit, such as a hose 500. The hose 500 is selected to permit an adequate amount of air flow to a user of the apparatus in need of air. Preferably, the user is submerged in a body of water, although other suitable environments may exist for use of the device, such as in bodies of other fluids, particle beds, mines, caves, and other environments where a remote air supply is required for survival. The opposite end of the air hose 500 is communicably connected to the supply-side valve 600. The supply-side valve 600 is a one-way valve, with air passing through the supply-side valve 600 permitted only to continue towards the mouthpiece 700, and not permitted to flow back towards the air hose 500 or air intake 200. The mouthpiece 700 in the embodiment of FIG. 2 includes a snorkel body 710 communicably linked to the outlet of supply-side valve 600. The snorkel body 710 is also communicably linked to a one-way exhaust valve 800. The mouthpiece includes a user opening that is located between the valves 600, 800. In use, as the user breathes in from the user opening in mouthpiece 700, air flows through the air intake opening 210, through conduit body portion 204, through bottom end 220, through air hose 500, and through supply-side valve 600, and into mouthpiece 700 and into the user's lungs. As the user exhales, expelled air flows back into mouthpiece 700, against closed supply-side valve 600, and through snorkel body 710 and out of the one-way exhaust valve 800.
 By way of a further example, the inventor has prepared and tested an embodiment of the apparatus consistent with that illustrated in FIG. 2. In that test article embodiment, the following components were used, with the following observed results. In the test article embodiment, the air intake 200 was made from standard available PVC pipe components, such as a T-joint with a longitudinal pipe section connected to form the conduit body portion 204. The counterbalance weight 400 included a cylindrical steel collar of approximate weight, attached to the conduit body portion 204 adjacent the bottom end 220. In the test article embodiment, the air hose 500 was connected to the bottom end 220 using a reducer and optionally one or more flaps or valves to keep water out of air hose 500. The air hose 500 was standard non-compressible air compressor hosing of at least about 0.5 inch to about 0.75 inches inner diameter. The supply-side valve 600 in the test article included a valve assembly from a WONDER PUMP® brand self-priming pump by American Specialty. Hose clamps were used to connect the bottom end 220, air hose 500, and supply-side valve 600, as well as to attach supply-side valve 600 to the inlet end of snorkel body 710. The snorkel body 710 and mouthpiece 700 in this test article included assemblies from a MAUI brand silicone snorkel, which snorkel included the one-way exhaust valve 800 as an integral device within the snorkel. In this embodiment, the valve was a ball end spring type. Other types include purge valves or flaps, for example. Using the test article device, the inventor was able to remain submerged with relatively unlabored breathing for more than 10 minutes in a swimming pool. The inventor observed that breathing was relatively unlabored at a depth of about 2 to about 3 feet, but that at depths greater than 3 feet breathing was a bit more difficult. The inventor has conceived that adjusting the relative inner diameter, length, and rigidity of the air hose 500 it is possible to make breathing easier at depths below about 2.5 feet. Surprisingly, the inventor discovered that positioning the supply-side valve 600 closer to the mouthpiece 700 than to the air intake 200 made breathing much easier. In addition, positioning the valves 600, 800 within about 3 to about 21 inch from the user opening in mouthpiece 700, and providing a higher throughput capacity exhaust valve 800, resulted in nearly effortless breathing and reduced vacuum at depths of up to about 3 feet. Additionally using this combination of valve proximities, the apparatus performed better as diameter of air hose 500 was reduced, down to about 3/8 inch OD (1/8 ID) non-compressible compressor hose. The inventor envisions the apparatus of the test article as built and tested as being suitable for snorkeling by 90 percent of the population of hobbyists, such as in swimming pools and other isolated bodies of water where users remain submerged less than 3 to about 4 feet from the surface. Other embodiments for deeper snorkeling of up to about 8 feet can be derived from the information provided herein by those skilled in the art.
 While this description is made with reference to exemplary embodiments, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes may be made and equivalents may be substituted for elements thereof without departing from the scope. In addition, many modifications may be made to adapt a particular situation or material to the teachings hereof without departing from the essential scope. Also, in the drawings and the description, there have been disclosed exemplary embodiments and, although specific terms may have been employed, they are unless otherwise stated used in a generic and descriptive sense only and not for purposes of limitation, the scope of the claims therefore not being so limited. Therefore, it is intended that the appended claims not be limited to the particular embodiment disclosed herein.
Patent applications in class Draw-type snorkel
Patent applications in all subclasses Draw-type snorkel