A team of scientists in Denmark has invented a crystalline material that can absorb oxygen with astounding efficiency. How astounding? Well, a single spoonful of the stuff can suck all of the oxygen out of a room. The best part is that it can release it again with just a little bit of heat. Say goodbye to bulky oxygen tanks.
"The material can absorb and release oxygen many times without losing the ability. It is like dipping a sponge in water, squeezing the water out of it and repeating the process over and over again", says Professor Christine McKenzie who led the research. "When the substance is saturated with oxygen, it can be compared to an oxygen tank, containing pure oxygen under pressure. The difference is that this material can hold three times as much oxygen."
The crystalline material changes colour from black to reddish-pink once oxygen passes through it.
In other words, a patient with lung trouble or a scuba diver wouldn't need to carry around heavy oxygen tanks. Instead, they could take advantage of this new cobalt-based material in a doubtlessly smaller container. Something as small as a mask could replace complex oxygen tank-and-pump setups. And yes, the scientists say that it will work underwater.
New ways to capture and store oxygen bear massive implications not only for medical technology but also for hydrogen fuel cells. The team in Denmark is now exploring the possibilities which extend all the way to artificial photosynthesis. That said, one can't help but wonder how this material might be weaponised. But let's just focus on the positive for now: pocket-sized scuba kits here we come. [Univ. of Southern Denmark]
Images via Shutterstock / Univ. of Southern Denmark