Besides being able to fly like a bird, breathing underwater like a fish is another cool ability many people have on their super power wish list. Maybe they don’t…but they should because how awesome would that be? Being able to stay underwater and breath without a big scuba cylinder strapped to your back would be an incredible experience. The improved underwater safety implications would change the game for sports such as big wave surfing, where multiple wave hold-downs are extremely dangerous; a gadget that would allow you to breath underwater during this time could prove lifesaving.
Well that dream may actually become reality following the creation of a new material that can “steal” oxygen from air. Researchers from the University of Southern Denmark have synthesized crystalline materials that can bind and store oxygen in high concentrations. The stored oxygen can be released again when and where it is needed.
The material, dubbed the “Aquaman Crystal,” can absorb and release oxygen many times over 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,” Christine McKenzie, a professor at the University explained in an interview with Science Daily.
Once the material has absorbed the oxygen, it can be released by simply heating the material or subjecting it to low pressure. “We see release of oxygen when we heat up the material, and we have also seen it when we apply vacuum,” McKenzie continued. “We are now wondering if light can also be used as a trigger for the material to release oxygen.”
The key component of the new material is the element cobalt, which is bound in a specially designed organic molecule.
“Cobalt gives the new material precisely the molecular and electronic structure that enables it to absorb oxygen from its surroundings. This mechanism is well known from all breathing creatures on earth: Humans and many other species use iron, while other animals, like crabs and spiders, use copper. Small amounts of metals are essential for the absorption of oxygen, so actually it is not entirely surprising to see this effect in our new material,” explained McKenzie.
A bucket full of “Aquaman Crystal” (10 litres) is enough to absorb all the oxygen in an average sized room. That’s incredible – think about how long you could breathe in a sealed room?
The amount of time it takes for the Crystal to absorb oxygen depends on a number of factors. These include the atmospheric oxygen content, temperature, and pressure. It can take mere seconds in optimal conditions, but up to a few days in less-than-ideal ones. While this seems like a pretty big hurdle to overcome, if breathing underwater using this technology was to become reality, it can actually be used effectively in order to make devices that can absorb and release oxygen under strict circumstances. One such example would be a mask containing numerous layers in the proper sequence that could supply air without pumps. While this mask would require air to operate, the technology could then be developed further to absorb the oxygen from water, in the same way that fish’s gills work – cool eh?
Featured Photo: Screenshot from GoPro Hero3 video