Titan submersible may have imploded due to 'micro-buckling', new research suggests

7 May 2024, 15:14 | Updated: 7 May 2024, 15:19

Research has revealed a new reason why the Titan Sub may have imploded
Research has revealed a new reason why the Titan Sub may have imploded. Picture: OceanGatw/Alamy

By Flaminia Luck

New research has revealed an explanation as to why the doomed Titan submersible imploded on its expedition to explore the wreckage of the Titanic last year.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Five people died after the submersible disappeared in June 2023, sparking an international rescue effort as experts raced to find the 21-foot vessel in the days before its oxygen supplies ran out.

However, it later emerged that the sub had suffered a catastrophic implosion because of the massive water pressure exerted on the hull.

In a new paper in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), researchers from the University of Houston studied how thin-walled structures can buckle as a result of miscroscopic imperfections in their materials.

Debris from the Titan submersible, recovered from the ocean floor near the wreck of the Titanic
Debris from the Titan submersible, recovered from the ocean floor near the wreck of the Titanic. Picture: Alamy
Wreckage is unloaded from the ship Horizon Arctic at the Canadian Coast Guard pier in St. John's, Newfoundland
Wreckage is unloaded from the ship Horizon Arctic at the Canadian Coast Guard pier in St. John's, Newfoundland. Picture: Alamy

Research lead and professor of civil and environmental engineering, Roberto Ballarini, suggested these imperfections in the carbon fiber used to build the hull could be to blame for the implosion.

Any damage that had built up from the vessel's previous dives could have made it vulnerable to "micro-buckling", he later stated.

"Buckling in the simplest explanation: you take a long spaghetti and you push on it with two fingers. What's going to happen? It's going to buckle essentially, it's going to snap," said Mr Ballarini.

Read more: Vladimir Putin begins fifth term in glittering Kremlin ceremony

"That's what buckling is. It's when you compress something and it deforms by a significant amount because it's an instability.'  

Researchers were not able to investigate whether micro-buckling was behind the failure of the Titan submersible - however they looked at vessels of similar shapes and materials. 

Other theories for why the submarine imploded also exist.

These include the hull's carbon fiber composite material. Small imperfections that could go undetected make vessels, like the Titan, at risk of collapsing under intense pressure. 

It is thought researchers will likely never determine the exact location or reason that caused the tragic event. 

The US Coast Guard searched for the submersible from the Canadian research vessel Polar Prince
The US Coast Guard searched for the submersible from the Canadian research vessel Polar Prince. Picture: Alamy

The doomed group of five were were travelling 12,500 feet below sea level when the deep sea submersible lost communication.

Debris was found on the sea floor days later and rescuers said that the sub had suffered a catastrophic implosion.

The others on board were UK billionaire Hamish Harding, French explorer Paul Henry Nargeolet, Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood and his 19-year-old son, Suleman.

Following the incident, it emerged that safety concerns were raised multiple times before, with several people including Ross Kemp and YouTuber Mr Beast having dropped out of doing similar trips.

As the Titanic wreckage is in international waters and the OceanGate expeditions were not operating out of a port, the trips were not subject to safety regulations.

Read more: Simulation shows how passengers in Titan submersible imploded as vessel collapsed

Graphic explains how Titan submersible imploded

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Terror in Russia: Gunmen open fire at two synagogues killing six police before slitting priest's throat at Orthodox Church

Terror in Russia: Gunmen open fire at synagogue and Orthodox churches killing six police officers

Detective who probed Nicola Bulley offers services to Jay Slater's family as search for teen enters its second week

Investigator who probed Nicola Bulley offers services to Jay Slater's family as search targets remote buildings

M50 motorway Dublin

'Miracle' as schoolboy, 12, 'lucky to be alive' after toppling from toilet of moving coach onto motorway

Exclusive
'I just had to disappear': Carol Vorderman shares how grief led her to runaway following death of co-star Richard Whiteley

'I just had to disappear': Carol Vorderman shares how grief led her to runaway following death of Richard Whiteley

Alan Hansan

Ex-Liverpool captain Alan Hansen discharged from hospital

Manchester Airport boss apologises after 'power spike' sees mass cancellations as he gives flight status update

Flights from Manchester Airport 'expected to resume' on Sunday as travel boss apologises for mass cancellations

The highest temperatures of the summer are expected this week

Yellow heat-health alerts signal warm weather for most of England as temperatures to hit 30C

Passengers have been queuing for hours at Manchester Airport

All flights from two terminals at Manchester Airport cancelled as passengers urged not to travel

Amanda Abbington and Giovanni Pernice

Amanda Abbington forced to call police after being bombarded with death threats from troll fans of Giovanni Pernice

Exclusive
Robert Buckland has split from the PM and Home Secretary

Senior Tory splits from PM and Home Secretary as he calls for those involved in betting scandal to be suspended

James Cleverly joined LBC for Sunday with Lewis Goodall

Conservative candidate who described Rwanda policy as ‘crap’ did so to ‘shock his audience’, Home Secretary says

Jay

Jay Slater's father and brother make emotional pleas for return of the missing teenager

Michael Gove

Betting scandal as bad for Tories as Partygate, Michael Gove warns

42C heat has hit Europe this week

Extreme weather hits holiday hotspots in Europe with 42C heat and ‘meteo-tsunami’ as Brits warned before booking trip

Live
Home Secretary, James Cleverly

General Election LIVE: Cleverly tells LBC Sunak is 'right' not to suspend Conservatives involved in betting scandal

Passengers have been queuing for hours at Manchester Airport

Passengers flying through Terminals 1 and 2 at Manchester Airport told ‘do not travel’ after huge power cut