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Scientists Discover Crystal That Stores And Releases Oxygen

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Explorations of extreme environments, such as outer space and the deep ocean are in part limited by human need for oxygen. The tanks that store the gas needed for human survival are bulky and have limited capacity. However, these limitations could soon be eliminated, thanks to a discovery made by scientists at the University of Southern Denmark.

They have experimented with a crystal that has the unique property of absorbing oxygen from air and even from water. The crystal is a form of cobalt salt* that has such a powerful oxygen-storing capacity that a single spoonful can technically absorb all the oxygen in a room.

While the ability to suck up oxygen is interesting on its own, this crystal can also release the entire oxygen cache when exposed to heat or low-oxygen conditions. As stated by the author of the study, Christine McKenzie, the salt functions in a manner similar to hemoglobin, the oxygen transport protein found in the red blood cells of all vertebrates.

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Should researchers be able to mass-produce the crystal, it could find its use in military applications where a device could incapacitate a room full of people in a relatively short period and with a low chance of being detected. In more practical and non-combat scenarios, the cobalt salt crystal could become a part of breathing equipment. Patients could find life easier if they wouldn’t have to carry cumbersome oxygen tanks. Divers could also benefit from a weight-reduction in diving tanks and if researchers could find a way to use the crystals’ ability to extract oxygen from an aquatic source this could greatly extend diving times.

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So long, sucker!

In the realm of energy, hydrogen fuel cells could be fed higher concentrations of oxygen and this would simplify and streamline a clean and efficient process of electricity generation. The team thinks that the crystal could be subjected to repeated use without diminishing or losing its storing properties.

This all sounds too good to be true and it might as well be so. The scientists have just discovered the crystal and mass production is still a long way from now. It would require further research and extensive testing outside of lab environments before making its way into our lives. But the first steps have already been made and the future of incredible man-made materials draws nearer.

*Its full name is [{(bpbp)Co2II(NO3)}2(NH2bdc)](NO3)2 * 2H2O. Contact Walter White for details on spelling it out.

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