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Monday, November 17, 2014

German WW2 Hydrogen Peroxide Powered Submarine

Neal Stephenson's book Crytonomicon mentions a German WW2 hydrogen peroxide powered submarine carrying a shipment of gold from Japan to the Philippines, or something equally bizarre. I've found a few mentions of this German secret weapon, but nothing as expansive as this very good brief I found on RC models by Robert Holsting.
German scientist Helmuth Walter demonstrated a prototype for the first true submarine – a boat which in theory could operate submerged for an indefinite period, unlimited by battery capacity or the need for atmospheric oxygen. V.80 was powered by the decomposition of highly-concentrated (95 percent) hydrogen peroxide, H2O2, known as Perhydrol. In essence: when the chemical breaks down, it releases superheated steam to drive a turbine, along with oxygen to support conventional combustion or for respiration by the crew.

The hull-shape of V.80 was optimized for submerged operations, and the boat indeed demonstrated exceptional speed – 28 knots submerged. It also demonstrated exceptionally high fuel consumption, 25 times that of a diesel engine, at exceptional cost. According to one source, one 6.5 hour trial run consumed $200,000 dollars worth of Perhydrol.

The design showed great promise. However, Hitler thought his war was won, and plans for the production of a series of Walter boats were put in limbo.
The 1943 experimental 250-ton Type Wa-201 Walter boat, U-792,
which hit 25 knots, submerged, on sea trials.
Research continued. Perhaps eight, in several variations, 250 and 300 tons, were put into service, 1943-44
The Type Wa-201 Walter boat, U-793, here partially dismantled at the end of the war.

Collapsible hydrogen peroxide storage bags being removed from the 300-ton Type XVIIB Walter boat U-1407 after the war. With the type of storage outside the pressure hull, fuel could be consumed without appreciable change in trim – seawater simply replaced the depleted volume.
Update June 2019 replaced pictures that disappeared after Blogger 'fixed' a problem it detected when I updated the labels.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It only would have made sense for a limited run of ultra high end recon subs, designed to "scout" right in the middle of the wolves' den using its immense speed to get in, get smart, get out. There are of course problems with communication; information is only useful to the fleet (in the German's case, what fleet?) if they have it yesterday, not tomorrow and announcing your presence by blaring out "ze English are over zere!" over the radio is the key to a short, if eventful, sortie...