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Scientists laugh at nature, discover a way to breathe underwater

Scientists have found a way to spite nature and its cruel decision to deny us the ability to breathe underwater. Researchers in Denmark have created a new crystalline material that can absorb large amounts of oxygen and then release it on demand, according to Science Daily. The research began as a way to help people with respiratory ailments, but could allow divers to work underwater without using oxygen tanks.

And it gets even cooler from there.

The human body needs the air around us to contain 21-percent oxygen to function properly. Researchers at the University of Southern Denmark, with help from scientists at the University of Sydney, Australia, began to look for ways to help those that need a higher percentage, including people that are forced to lug around oxygen tanks. That led them to a crystalline material with the ability to absorb oxygen.

Those researchers discovered that a liter of the crystalline material – which is obtained by using x-ray diffraction to determine the atomic structure of an oxygen absorbing crystal – could suck the oxygen out of an entire room and store it. Adding the element cobalt as an organic binding agent, they then discovered that the absorbed oxygen could then be released as needed. But that’s not all.

The material has been dubbed the “Aquaman Crystal.” That name has a touch of the hyperbolic to it, of course, but it rolls off the tongue a bit easier than its official name: [{(bpbp)Co2II(NO3)}2(NH2bdc)](NO3)2 * 2H2O. It’s not entirely inaccurate either.

A few grains of the Aquaman Crystal alone could supply an adult diver a full breath. The material can also continually reabsorb oxygen from multiple sources, including water. So in theory, that means that a diver could wear a lightweight filter comprised of these crystals and breathe for minutes, even hours, underwater without the need for oxygen tanks. The research is still in a fairly early stage, but it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see some of the potential.

“This could be valuable for lung patients who today must carry heavy oxygen tanks with them,” professor Christine McKenzie of the University of Southern Denmark, one of the lead researchers said in a statement. “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 further described the material to be “like a solid artificial hemoglobin,” meaning the material would be able to absorb, store, and release oxygen, then begin the process again.

“A few grains contain enough oxygen for one breath, and as the material can absorb oxygen from the water around the diver and supply the diver with it, the diver will not need to bring more than these few grains,” she said.

One of the most surprising aspects of all of this is that the process is completely natural. Once the material absorbs as much oxygen as it can hold, it can then be released simply by applying a low amount of heat, or low oxygen pressure, like a vacuum. Researchers are also looking into the possibility that a release could be triggered by light.

Image Courtesy of: The Scuba Diving Directory

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Founder and DBP boss. Ryan likes the Kansas Jayhawks, long walks on the beach, and high fiving unsuspecting people.
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