What’s inside inflatable rafts and inflatable life preservers that makes them blow up automatically?

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What’s inside inflatable rafts and inflatable life preservers that makes them blow up automatically?

In: Engineering

Self-inflating devices have two potential methods of inflation. Either a battery-powered or plug-in pump, as might be found in a dinghy, or a chemical-powered gas generator (think: miniature explosion).

The inflatable life vests that I’ve used have tiny compressed CO2 canisters that are waiting for sharp pins to puncture them. A mechanism using a water-soluble tablet holds the pin from striking the canister (and releasing the gas) until the mechanism is submerged in water.

Similarly, the life rafts on my ship also use compressed gas cylinders for inflation. The seal on the cylinder is broken when the connected painter line is pulled, or the painter line is connected to a spring-loaded puncture mechanism that breaks the seal when the line is pulled.