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Heavy Lifting

A team of technicians, engineers, and pilots installs a block of syntactic foam around the personnel sphere of the upgraded Alvin submarine. Syntactic foam is composed of a matrix of billions of microscopic hollow glass spheres embedded in a hard epoxy resin. The resulting material is hard enough to resist crushing under extreme pressure. This block weights more than 1,000 pounds—in air. But it is lighter than water and thus provides buoyancy to keep the sub afloat and bring it back to the surface. From left, Kurt Uetz, Pat Hickey, Dexter Tan, and Rod Catanach align a foam block before attaching it to Alvin's frame. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)


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