Scientists Just Brought Us One Step Closer to Breathing Underwater Without Oxygen Tanks

The news: Have you ever wanted to breathe underwater? You may soon have your chance.

A group of scientists from the University of Southern Denmark have developed a crystalline material that absorbs oxygen from the surrounding environment, both water and air, and stores it for future use.

The aptly named " Aquaman Crystal " uses cobalt to work its magic, and it doesn't need a lot — just a few grains provides enough oxygen for the first breath. As the research team  notes , because the material can continually absorb oxygen from the water, a diver would only need to bring a tiny amount underwater in order to breathe without a tank. 


"It is also interesting that the material can absorb and release oxygen many times without losing the ability," said Christine McKenzie, one of the scientists involved with the project. "It is like dipping a sponge in water, squeezing the water out of it and repeating the process over and over again." 

The crystalline material changes color when absorbing or releasing oxygen. Crystals are black when they are saturated with oxygen and pink when the oxygen has been released again.
Source: 
The University of Southern Denmark

It has uses beyond diving, too. The scientists note that the material can also be used to help lung patients who breathe with the help of an oxygen tank. 

"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," McKenzie said. 

Oxygen tanks are bulky and heavy, and though there are smaller ones for use outside the home, they're still an inconvenience for those who need them to breathe properly. 

The atmospheric oxygen content, temperature and pressure all affect the time required for the material to absorb oxygen; it can take mere seconds or up to a few days to work. But the university emphasizes that its potential uses are myriad — cars that use fuel cells, for example, need a regulated oxygen supply. 

Though there's no set timeline for the material to be converted for commercial use, the possibility is nevertheless exciting. Get ready to make like Aquaman, everyone. 

h/t Inhabitat 

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Sophie Kleeman

Sophie is a staff writer at Mic covering the intersection of tech and culture. She's based in New York and can be reached at sophie@mic.com.

MORE FROM

Twitter was flagging tweets including the word "queer" as potentially "offensive content"

Why Twitter put the word "queer" in the same category as violent, sexual imagery.

How Mark Zuckerberg wants to transform society through Facebook Groups

Facebook has a new mission.

California is making so much solar energy the rest of the country looks like a joke

They're literally paying other states to take their solar power.

This summer, Americans will get the rare chance to see a total solar eclipse

Anyone in the continental U.S. should mark their calendars.

This hilarious 'Floor is lava' meme is way too real for every single millennial

When you were a kid, the floor was just lava. Now it's way more complicated.

The new iOS 11 beta is out and Apple has changed your iPhone's message effects again

A new iOS 11 beta is out and iMessage has a new trick.

Twitter was flagging tweets including the word "queer" as potentially "offensive content"

Why Twitter put the word "queer" in the same category as violent, sexual imagery.

How Mark Zuckerberg wants to transform society through Facebook Groups

Facebook has a new mission.

California is making so much solar energy the rest of the country looks like a joke

They're literally paying other states to take their solar power.

This summer, Americans will get the rare chance to see a total solar eclipse

Anyone in the continental U.S. should mark their calendars.

This hilarious 'Floor is lava' meme is way too real for every single millennial

When you were a kid, the floor was just lava. Now it's way more complicated.

The new iOS 11 beta is out and Apple has changed your iPhone's message effects again

A new iOS 11 beta is out and iMessage has a new trick.