BY: JOHNATHAN MOSS
The ability to breath underwater without being weighed down by clumsy oxygen tanks and burdensome equipment has long captured the imaginations of humankind. The idea of roaming carelessly 50 feet below the ocean’s surface, exploring submerged caves and exotic sea life is thrilling, and soon enough may be a possibility. This is thanks to the development of The Aquaman Crystal, a substance developed by University of Southern Denmark that can store oxygen in extremely high concentrations.
The report published in the peer reviewed journal Chemical Science stated that a mere 10 litres of the crystalline material, just enough to fill a bucket, can steal the oxygen from an entire average-sized room. “It is also interesting that 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,” Professor Christine McKenzie said.
The crystal uses cobalt as the basis of its molecular structure, so the process is similar to how you are breathing at this very moment. Tiny amounts of metal are essential for the absorption of oxygen. Your lungs use iron ions from the hemoglobin proteins found in your blood steam to grab hold of oxygen. Instead the crystal uses cobalt to bind, store, and transport oxygen molecules, “so actually it is not entirely surprising to see this effect in our new material,” McKenzie added. Based off the atomic arrangement of the material, scientists realized that once the oxygen has been fully absorbed, it can be stored until they choose to release it by applying a small amount of heat or putting it inside a vacuum.
Being able to store three times the amount of oxygen than a pressurized diving tank, it would be far smaller and lighter to carry. “This could be valuable for lung patients who today must carry heavy oxygen tanks with them. But also divers may one day be able to leave the oxygen tanks at home and instead get oxygen from this material as it ‘filters’ and concentrates oxygen from surrounding air or water,” McKenzie said. Basically, we could create devices similar to face masks that use layers of the material to provide pure oxygen to divers directly from the water without the need for any other equipment.
There is no information yet on the public availability of this material, but goddamn we can cross our fingers.