What’s an Aquatic Lung?

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The Aqua Lung® is a device for breathing underwater invented by Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Emile Gagnan in the 1930s. It uses open-loop technology and is still used in the military and diving communities. After the patent expired, US Divers purchased and trademarked the device. The United States Army has used Aqua Lung® technology for nearly 50 years. Critics argue that open circuit scuba gear can be problematic, leaving behind a trail of bubbles that can startle nearby animals. Closed-circuit devices recycle air, reducing the trail of bubbles and giving divers more time underwater.

An Aqua Lung® is a device registered to allow breathing underwater. Originally invented by a pair of undersea explorers in the 1930s, the Aqua Lung® uses open-loop technology to supply the user with fresh air and expel used air. Aqua Lungs® are considered an obsolete technology by some critics, but they remain a staple product in the military and the diving community at large.

Jacques-Yves Cousteau and his partner Emile Gagnan are often credited with inventing the device that would come to be known as the Aqua Lung®. Cousteau, a famous underwater researcher, was inspired by the 19th century inventors of the diving helmet to create his underwater breathing apparatus. Gagnan, much less famous, nonetheless developed the regulating mechanism that controlled the air supply from the pressurized tanks. Cousteau used their combined invention to film long sequences in deep water, which had not been possible using snorkel technology alone. The success of Cousteau’s films, including the Palme d’Or-winning documentary The Silent World, went a long way towards popularizing marine biology and are considered major contributing factors to the rise of marine conservation efforts.

After the patent for the original invention expired in the 1960s, Cousteau’s device was purchased and trademarked by a dive supply company, then called US Divers. While the term was in use as a generic word for diving equipment, new trademark laws quickly ensured that any casual use was discouraged. US Divers changed its name to Aqua Lung America after its most popular product, and continues to be a major supplier of dive equipment.

The United States Army has used Aqua Lung® technology for nearly 50 years for diving missions and training. Research and development of diving products for military use has been a primary focus of Aqua Lung America. In addition to life support materials, the company supplies specialized equipment for Navy and Special Forces units, including underwater products for hazardous missions such as Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD.)

Aqua Lungs® use a type of technology called an open circuit to help divers receive clean air and expel used air. According to critics, this type of scuba gear can be problematic, as it leaves behind a distinct trail of bubbles when air is exhaled which can startle or anger nearby animals. Closed-circuit devices recycle air by passing exhaled air through a chamber that removes carbon dioxide and returns it to breathable oxygen. Not only do closed circuit scuba tanks reduce the trail of bubbles, they also give the diver more time underwater thanks to the recycling process.

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