A 26-year-old student at the University of Limerick has won a prestigious national award for inventing a new lightweight underwater-breathing system ideal for those taking up scuba diving.

Cathal Redmond’s “Express Dive” system allows divers to breathe underwater for up to two minutes. Once the air supply begins to run out, the user simply resurfaces and holds a button to refill the one-liter tank.

Redmond will receive a check from the James Dyson Foundation for €2,500 and proceed to the international stage of the competition, competing against students from 20 countries for the overall prize of €37.500 to develop his design.

The design overcomes the complexities of a scuba set-up by reducing the number and size of parts needed to breathe underwater, vastly reducing the weight and size of the breathing apparatus.

Unlike traditional snorkels, Express Dive allows the user to dive to much greater depths as it has its own separate air tank. Meanwhile a full scuba kit can cost in the region of €3,000, as opposed to an estimated €400 for Redmond’s device.

It was while on a holiday in Greece that Redmond, a keen scuba diver, concluded that there was a big gap between snorkeling masks and heavy scuba diving equipment.

“I saw a need for something lighter, inexpensive and portable that everyone could use for leisure diving. Scuba equipment is bulky and expensive and the preparation process is rigorous and time-consuming,” he said.

He began to investigate a solution that provided the freedom of scuba with the portability of a snorkel.