The aqua-hamster and the artificial gill (1964)


Fifty years ago, General Electric Research Lab scientist Walter Robb was on the cover of Science News for creating an ultra-thin membrane that acted like an "artificial gill," pulling enough oxygen from the water to keep a hamster alive in a submerged box wrapped in the stuff.

Back then, the scientists thought the synthetic membrane could "hold the answer to a simple system for supplying submarines with air drawn from the water around them, the purification of air in space capsules or moon stations, and a means of providing cheap, reliable oxygen supplies for patients in hospitals or at home."

Why didn't it happen? It was much harder than expected to make the membranes at large scale.

"Sheath helps 'aqua-hamster' survive underwater"