Sunday, January 01, 2006

Scientists find ways to preserve Hunley

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The State
November, 2004

CHARLESTON — After months of testing, technology using supercritical fluids shows promise for preserving the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley, which sat encased in sand beneath the ocean for almost 140 years.

But months of more tests and studies must be done before scientists settle on the best way to remove the corrosive salts from the hand-cranked sub.

"We still have a long way to go experimentally before we can sit back and say we will use this process," said Michael Drews, the materials scientist heading the Clemson University research team helping with the Hunley conservation.

The 40-foot Hunley became the first sub to sink an enemy warship when it rammed a spar with a black-powder charge into the Union blockade ship Housatonic on Feb. 17, 1864.

The Hunley never returned and was finally located off Sullivan’s Island nine years ago. It was raised in 2000.

Scientists also have considered using cold plasma technology and traditional electrolysis to preserve the Hunley. In supercritical fluid technology — in this case the fluid is water — fluids take on the characteristics of both a gas and a liquid under intense heat and pressure and have unique dissolving characteristics.


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