Published: Oct. 19, 2000

An underwater breathing device created by two University of Colorado at Boulder researchers was named one of 18 semifinalists in Hammacher Schlemmer's 2000 Search for Invention Competition.

The Pressurized Snorkel was invented by Igor Gamow, a professor of chemical engineering and well-known inventor of devices to enhance human performance, and by research associate Dana Ruehlman. Their patented device is as easy to use as a snorkel but enables divers to stay up to 12 feet underwater for several hours.

The Pressurized Snorkel provides air to the diver through a mouthpiece regulator similar to scuba gear. But instead of receiving air from pressurized tanks, the diver receives air from a small battery-operated compressor located on a boat or a dock above the water's surface. The compressor sends air to the diver through flexible plastic tubing connected to the regulator.

The apparatus could be useful for such functions as clearing obstructions from boat propellers, performing underwater boat maintenance and retrieving golf balls from water traps, Gamow said.

More than 300 entries were received in this year's competition sponsored by Hammacher Schlemmer, a 152-year-old retailer of innovative consumer products. All entries were required to be patented and intended for general consumer use, and all the semifinalist and winning prototypes were displayed at the company's flagship New York City store in September.

Other inventions making the semifinals included a solar-heated jacket, a waterproof microphone and speaker and a swimming pool leak detector. The winning entry was a shade stand with a swirling canopy that moves with the sun to provide continuous shade.

Gamow's other inventions include the Gamow Bag, a portable chamber inflated by a foot pump that is carried on high mountain climbing expeditions to combat altitude sickness and has saved dozens of lives, and the High Altitude Bed, a chamber that simulates higher altitudes and improves aerobic capacity while people sleep.

For more information on the Pressurized Snorkel call Gamow at (303) 492-6969 or visit the Web site at