Monday, September 21st, 2009

Plastics Create A Window to the Ocean

aquariumI have many fond memories of going to aquariums as a child. From Baltimore to Monterey Bay to Chicago, I've been to a few. There's nothing quite like seeing a sea anemone swaying to and fro with the current or watching a beluga whale swimming just a few feet away. What I love about aquariums is that without them, I would have to be a deep-sea or SCUBA diver, traveling around the world in order to glimpse even a fraction of everything that you can see at an aquarium. Aquariums bring the beauty and awesomeness of the ocean to the non-swimmers and land-lovers of this world.

My favorite feature about aquariums are the floor-to-ceiling windows that allow you to see a full panoramic view of life under water.  One of the largest viewing windows is found at the Kuroshio Sea exhibit at Churaumi Aquarium in Okinawa, Japan. More than 32 feet deep, almost 115 feet wide, and 88 feet long, the tank is a home to 80 species of fish, including a few whale sharks. This wide array of sea-life can be viewed through a huge acrylic (plexiglass) viewing window.

With close to 2 million gallons of water in the tank, it was critical to select a material that could withstand a large amount of water pressure being placed on the window.  Many aquarium windows are made from Poly(methyl methacrylate) or PMMA, which is known for it's strength and clarity. This window was constructed by gluing seven sheets of acrylic-resin together, creating a window that measures about 27 feet tall, 74 feet wide and almost 2 feet thick.

In addition to aquarium viewing windows, PMMA is also used for submarine windows, such as the Alicia Submarine, which offers panoramic, underwater ocean views thanks to it's spherical, acrylic hull.  Acrylic truly creates windows into the sea, allowing us to peek into an underwater world.

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