Special crystal opens way to underwater breathing

November 4, 2014 | Environment
Breathing underwater: say goodbye to never-ending wave hold-downs | Photo: Creative Commons

Will humans ever be able to breath underwater? Scientists at the University of Southern Denmark believe they've discovered crystalline materials that can bind and store oxygen in high concentrations, allowing humans to stay underwater for a long period.

Remember the Aquaman? The DC Comics superhero may jump from the comic books to real life. The ultimate breathing treasure is in the making. It's crystal clear.

"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," explains Christine McKenzie, researcher at Danish institution.

"When the substance is saturated with oxygen, it can be compared to an oxygen tank containing pure oxygen under pressure - the difference is that this material can hold three times as much oxygen."

Big wave surfers, scuba divers, and surf rescue teams are among those who would benefit from the discovery. A spoonful of the breathing crystal, which uses cobalt, is enough for a couple of minutes underwater.

And you won't need more than a handful because the material will keep absorbing oxygen from the water. To put things into perspective, ten litres of the material are enough to absorb all the oxygen in a room.

Once the oxygen has been absorbed you can keep it stored in the material until you want to release it. The oxygen can be released by gently heating the material or subjecting it to low oxygen pressures.

Crystals are black when they are saturated with oxygen and pink when the oxygen has been released again.

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