Anchors: History of and Developments in Anchor Technology



The Inflate-a-Weight is a specially designed anchor that utilizes a chemical a reaction to assist in the anchor's ascent. Connected to your body of the anchor are two balloons similar in design to airbags. Is connected at the top and the other at the bottom. The bottom balloon acts as a backup if the very best one fails to activate. Using an infrared handy remote control, the user can release some water into the balloon. This can react with the trace amount of sodium within the balloon to produce sodium hydroxide and hydrogen gas. The gas will inflate the balloon and give the anchor the buoyancy necessary for it to rise to the top. The Inflate-a-Weight is an easy approach to hauling within an anchor that could save boaters the electricity they need to power radios, lights, and navigation systems.

Present Technology

The current technology of anchors includes multiple different anchor types used for various purposes, the line it is linked to, and the chain it is connected to. These anchor types include the lightweight anchor, kedge anchor, grapnels anchor, plow anchor, claw anchor, and the mushroom anchor. The lightweight anchor is usually used on smaller boats used for recreational purposes. The kedge anchor is generally used on large ships because it buries one of its sides and relies mainly on the weight of the ship to help keep it in place. The grapnels anchor is used by small boats such as kayaks and canoes since it has little holding power. The plow anchor is commonly used on cruising boats because it can bury itself generally in most bottom types. The claw anchor works much like the plow anchor but it allows 360 degree turns while anchored and is able to right itself easily if it hits the bottom on the wrong side. The mushroom anchor is employed mainly for moorings and is best used in soft bottoms because of the suction it is able to create because of computer mushroom shape. Additionally, the anchors are mounted on the boat with a line and/or chain. The three-strand twist nylon line is the best line to work with because of the shock with the ability to absorb from the anchoring. It is strongly recommended that the line is mixed with a chain for the anchor. Chain is usually made from galvanized steel and isgood to work with for attaching you anchor to the boat since it can handle more excess weight and deterioration and the most commonly used kind of chain is the proof coil.

Airbags are inflated with a chemical reaction activated in a head-on collision to help protect a person in an accident. They are commonly activated when in a head-on collision the automobile decelerates at a very fast pace and a ball held in place with a magnet moves forward to activate a power circuit to ignite a pellet of sodium azide. Once that happened the airbag inflates in mere milliseconds, approximately 40. Following the bag has inflated fully it starts to deflate to cushion the body with time for when your body should make contact with it. For the airbag to create the gas necessary to inflate it goes through a series of chemical reactions. The reason for multiple reactions is to create the gas needed and to remove the other harmful substances produced and convert them into harmless substances.

There are extensive gas producing chemical reactions, however the important ones because of this project have reactants in group 1, the alkali metals. Some of the elements situated in this group have strong reactions with water. Some of these reactants react with water in a violent explosion and produce gas. Lithium comes with an strong reaction with water and produces hydrogen gas. Sodium has an easy reaction with water, which is often seen by the small explosion or fire when the reactants are combined, and produces hydrogen gas. Potassium has a rapid exothermic reaction with water and can catch fire during the reaction and it produces hydrogen gas. Rubidium reacts very rapidly and violently with water and produces hydrogen gas. Cesium has an extremely fast and violent reaction with water and produces hydrogen gas.

The current technology of infrared remote controls and sensors includes being found in tv remotes. The infrared or IR remote can work by using s low frequency light beam that cannot be detected by the eye but by the tv receiver. The IR remotes and their sensors are used by many different gadgets today including things such as televisions, radios, and movie players.


Anchors have been used for a large number of years. Ancient forms of anchors, rocks, have been found that date to the Bronze Age. A primitive anchor consists of a pair of wood arms under a huge rock. It provided the same purpose as present day anchors, which is to truly have a sharp point and mass. Ancient anchors relied on the grappling hook before stock, a bar perpendicular to the arm to be able to roll the anchor to pierce the bottom, was introduced and adopted.

Airbags were first found in the first 1950s and were designed by Walter Linderer, a German engineer and later was patented by John W. Hetrick. In 1963, Yasuzaburou Kobori created current airbag technology. In 1968, Allen Breed invented the first automobile crash sensor and airbag safety system. Early airbags had the problem of retaining pressure in the canisters that inflated the bag with compressed air. Sodium azide and its by-product, sodium hydroxide, were commonly found in the 1990s. However its toxicity and reactivity caused it to be phased out.

Infrared, or IR, technologies had started to be used in the first 1980s. The first handy remote control, called "Lazy Bones" was created by Zenith Electronics Corporation. Eugene McDonald created the first wireless remote, the "Flashmatic". An IR remote emits an extremely low frequency laser beam which is then met by the receiver. In the very beginning of the 2000s, ninety-nine percent of most television set sets and one-hundred of all VCRs and DVD players were equipped with IR remote controls. Most remote controls today use IR technology.


The gas that needed to be used had to be safe and couldn't be bad for the surroundings. Methane and ammonia are bad for the environment, so these were thrown out as possibilities. Really the only other ones that would be useful in lifting the anchor were hydrogen and helium, but helium is very costly to be used on a daily basis. This left hydrogen as the aspect chosen for the lifting of the anchor. Next it was essential to find a way to produce the hydrogen through a reaction, but the compounds used couldn't be bad for the surroundings, along using its byproducts. The easiest and cleanest way to produce hydrogen was to employ a salt and mix it with water. The one salt that won't generate a harmful byproduct and will not explode killing any creatures, was sodium and therefore was chosen for to make the anchor's needed reaction.

The breakthrough that is essential for the floating anchor to work is the reaction that has to take place inside the anchor under the ruthless of deep ocean waters. The reaction must happen within an area that is totally dry, so as to avoid an early on and undesired reaction. The separate chambers where in fact the sodium and water are held must be sealed properly to avoid compromising the clean water with contaminates and the risk of the sodium exposure to water, creating an early on reaction, is too great. The sole possible method for the reaction to occur is if the sodium is kept dry and safely from the ocean's water.

The sodium must be kept in a separate chamber where it could be released in to the water of another chamber. Water should be filled prior to the anchor is dropped but if not, water can be used if it's fresh water. As this is an unlikely case, due to the fact that the anchor's main purpose is made for deep oceanic waters, the anchor can still be used in freshwater lakes or rivers.

When the sodium is released in to the water of another chamber, the reaction will rapidly produce sodium hydroxide and hydrogen gas. The hydrogen gas will fill the balloon that is attached to the exterior of the anchor and provide the lift essential for the anchor to go up to the surface at a reliable and safe rate.

The release system is linked to a infrared handy remote control on board the ship. If the anchor must be raised, they simply use a remote control to send infrared signals to the anchor, which opens the chamber, and triggers the reaction. The downside is that because of the fact that a high concentration of sodium, in case a leak occurs, could destroy the anchor in a little explosion. In order to avoid a catastrophe, the concentration of sodium must be kept at a minimal level. This basically means that no more than a couple of reactions worth of sodium can be kept in the chambers within the anchor. A remedy to any failures in the discharge of the sodium can be fixed with a far more manual format. A tube will be run down the chain to the anchor after installation, so if the reaction in the anchor fails, hydrogen gas can be pumped down the tube in to the anchor's balloon. If there arises issues with the balloon, there's a second emergency balloon attached to the opposite end of the anchor, which is attached to the tube, that can be filled if the first fails to achieve this. If all else fails, the anchor can be raised as it is today, slowly and steadily, by way of a windlass or by hand.

All these things must get together perfectly for this little bit of technology to work. If there is one flaw, the complete anchor is compromised and rendered useless for its purpose.

Although this technology has the ability to exist today, it is unlikely because of the fact that every time the anchor is used the chamber containing the chemical would have to be refilled. The one way to being refilled each and every time is to acquire multiple chambers, but this may be a problem due to the fact that if the concentration of the chemical is too much and there's a leak, the opportunity of the anchor exploding becomes possible.

Future Technologies

Future means of easing the utilization of the anchor is always to raise it to the top faster and safer. Our vision carries a way to raise an anchor from underneath of the body of water to the surface is merely this way. That is a safer way to elevate an anchor with out a windlass.

We visualize our concept to be placed in place by many different people for most different uses. For example, the merchandise of reaction in the airbag can be employed never to only airbags, but inflatable boats or recreation inflation uses. Rather than using one's breath or an air mattress pump, only activate the sodium and water for an instant inflation. This technology of producing gas can be utilized in many places for many different reasons.

The IR signals can be improved and put on more uses than they currently are. Infrared signals can be used in many different applications, not only in tv set remotes or triggering reactions in anchors but also sending information by light. However, the effectiveness of infrared signals must be improved to be able to reach longer distances or through different materials since it is undoubtedly a minimal energy light.

Along with the infrared technology, the other components can be further improved. The strength of the anchor, reliability of the reaction can be improved. Different designs could also end up being far better than our own. This contributes to development of the Inflate-a-Weight.

Design Process

After the team made a decision to do our project by using an anchor retraction system we brainstormed different ways to make it easier. After picking which to do we had rejected three different versions of the idea for various reasons. The first idea that was rejected by the group was an anchor that is retracted by the motorized pulley system. The idea was to have the rope/chain attached to the anchor to be wrapped on the pulley so a button could be pushed or a switch flipped and the pulley would start turning lifting the anchor up and from the water. The idea was rejected since when further research was conducted on the theory, we discovered that it already exists and is known as a windlass.

Another idea that was rejected was an anchor that has water jets to propel it upward. The group rejected this idea due to dangers of the anchor flying up in to the boat and damaging it or harming the passengers. When the water jets pushed with too much pressure behind it, it could launch up too much and fly into the boat, causing a hole or other damage possibly resulting in compromising the integrity of the hull and leading to the sinking of the watercraft. The anchor flying up into the boat may possibly also cause serious injury or even death to any passenger riding in the boat. This may be a pricey ordeal because major damage to the boat and medical bills aren't usually cheap.

The last idea that was rejected was an anchor that floats up using air pumps. Our group rejected this version of the idea since it is not practical because of all the equipment required that could fail or easily break. A number of the equipment would have to be a tube and the actual air pump. The pump could fail by losing power and result in a problem for retracting the anchor. The tube running right down to the inflatable device to help make the anchor rise could break and then it might be a pain to repair and block the way of manually raising the anchor in the case which it breaks. However, this notion led us to think about another way to use something lighter than water to raise the anchor. We deducted that using a chemical reaction to produce gas within an inflatable attached to the base of the anchor works better. When discussing it more we knew a way to activate the chemical reaction was needed and we thought of remotely activating it to make it easier on an individual.


The floating anchor technology could involve some potentially harmful and unintended consequences. If sea creatures ingest the chemicals at all, the entire remaining food web is affected by the chemicals as well. The toxins may well not be as potent in higher levels of the chain, but it still spreads from organism to organism. For instance, a school of tuna fish might come in contact with the chemicals and later conclude being caught and processed for retail.

The rapidly rising anchors may be a potential hazard for people in boats. If the reaction becomes out of control, then the anchor could fly from the water and strike people wanting to raise it. The anchor could also strike the hull of the boat and damage the vessel, perhaps leading to flooding or even sinking, depending on size of the vessel.

The degrees of infrared radiation could steadily increase in the ocean since the anchor uses IR signals to trigger the reaction. This increase would harm the atmosphere more than it does the ocean. The ocean water evaporates, releasing excess heat and infrared energy, which is then absorbed by moist, tropical air. The wind then carries the environment to a convergence zone where it falls as precipitation. The heat and IR energy is then released in to the atmosphere. Rising IR levels in the atmosphere can donate to the greenhouse effect.

Another potential problem is the precipitate left following the reaction occurs and the anchor commences its ascent. If the balloon that provides buoyancy for the anchor burst, then your sodium hydroxide would be released in to the ocean. When sodium hydroxide makes connection with water, it produces an enormous amount of heat. The heat made could damage the anchor or even render it useless. If it is close enough to the boat then it may damage the structure of the boat as well.

Despite the possible problems that could rise to the top, the Inflate-a-Weight could be quite convenient and affordable for sailors. The float would be convenient and quick instead of the longer levels of time it usually takes to haul an anchor from the bottom. Windlasses on smaller vessels are usually powered by electricity. If the Inflate-a-Weight anchor were used instead, then more power could be utilized for radios, satnav systems, or lights.

The quick speed of the Inflate-a-Weight would also be great for vessels to avoid collisions. When a ship cannot stop in time to prevent a collision, then your anchored vessel could quickly raise their anchor and move out of the way. Small law enforcement craft and Coast Guard vessels would also find the anchor useful when wanting to quickly raise their anchor in order to pursue suspects in boats or on small water craft like jet skis.

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