The hyperbaric chamber was installed at Simon Fraser University in 1980, and opened its doors (or valves) for the first time in 1981. The team at the Environmental Medicine and Physiology Unit (EMPU) specialize in researching human performance in extreme environments. The chamber is capable of pressurizing or, ‘diving’, to 305 meters of seawater (1000 ft of seawater, 30 ATA, 445 psi) as well as drawing a vacuum, or ‘flying’, to a simulated altitude of 33.5 km above sea level (ASL), which is equivalent to the atmospheric pressure on Mars (0.011 ATA, 0.159 psi, 100,000 ft ASL). The unit is capable of meeting specific requirements for hyperbaric, aerospace, and environmental testing of various degrees and equipment.
The chamber at EMPU is a triple-lock multi-place Class ‘A’ hypo/hyperbaric complex, constructed to PVHO-1 standards. The chamber a main lock made for 7 people, a wet pot which can accommodate up to 3 people, and an entry lock to connect them. The main lock is plumbed to host a variety of electronics and gases depending on the study protocol. It also contains four fold up bunks for longer duration or sleep tests/studies. As the name suggests, the wet pot can be filled with water and people or gear can be submerged and tested at depth. The wet pot also contains a custom swim ergometer which allows swim tests to be done under pressure. The entry lock connects both chambers, and can be used to isolate the different lock. This allows travel while the main lock or wet pot stays at depth/altitude, in order to transfer people or equipment safely without interruption of the study. There is an environmental control system for air/water temperature and humidity, as well as carbon dioxide scrubbing capabilities.
The EMPU facility is accredited by the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medial Society (UHMS). The unit offers training for Hyperbaric Medical Technologists (HMTs), which is applicable for continuing medical education (CME) credits through the UHMS. Additional course offerings address topics for Chamber Operators and Safety Directors as outlined by the CSAZ275.1 standard, and for Chamber Technicians in charge of maintenance and operations of hyperbaric facilities.