Gone are the days of breathing oxygen-rich liquid. “Thank God” we cna hear you say! … Okay, maybe that was only in the movie Abyss (above) but still, a new crystalline oxygen “sponge” that comes courtesy of researchers at the University of Southern Denmark is pretty amazing. As with most things that remove oxygen from the air, the material works by binding chemically to the individual oxygen molecules. You’re doing something similar as you read this in your lungs, as incoming oxygen grabs hold of the hemoglobin proteins found in blood, thanks to nice chemical “handholds” in the form of iron ions.
“The material is both a sensor, and a container for oxygen—we can use it to bind, store and transport oxygen—like a solid artificial hemoglobin,” said Christine McKenzie, a nanobioscience professor and principle investigator behind the new research, in a statement. What’s more, it appears that the material is capable of doing this again and again, indefinitely, without losing its oxygen soaking abilities.
The material is just as capable of absorbing oxygen from water as air, so it might one day be possible for divers to spend long periods of time underwater without tanks. “A few grains contain enough oxygen for one breath,” McKenzie explained, “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.”