Here is some good news for the fans of DC comics superhero "Aquaman" - Thanks to its namesake "Aquaman crystal" they too may soon be able to swim deep into the oceans without lugging around heavy air tanks. That's because the man-made chemical compound which was unveiled by a team of researchers from the University of Southern Denmark on September 30th, has the capacity to absorb as much as 160 times the amount of oxygen that is in the atmosphere. According to the scientists, a spoonful of the substance could store all the oxygen that is present in a normal-sized room.
While it sounds magical, the complex crystal's power comes from mimicking the oxygen absorbing techniques of normal living beings. As you are probably aware, red-blood cells have an iron-containing molecule called hemoglobin that allows for the absorption and binding of oxygen. The Aquaman crystal uses the same methodology, except in this case, the scientists have used cobalt and transformed it into an oxygen absorbing machine, by arranging it in a unique molecular structure.
While that in itself is amazing, what makes the tiny crystal powerful, is its ability to retain and store the gas, so that it can be transported and used when required. In order to release the stored oxygen, all the user has to do, is expose the crystal to gentle heat or place it inside a vacuum. The researchers are also working on developing other trigger release mechanisms such as exposure to light. Furthermore, the compound is like a sponge and can absorb and release oxygen, multiple times. This means the crystal can be reused over and over again.
The scientists believe that the Aquaman crystal would be useful in variety of applications ranging from deep sea diving to outer space exploration and even right here on earth, for patients suffering from breathing disorders. They envision the day when scuba divers, lung patients and astronauts, will simply pocket a handful of the Aquaman crystals for their oxygen needs. Some researchers also believe that the crystals can be used to regulate the supply of oxygen in cars powered by fuel cells.
So what's stopping this "superhero crystal" from taking over the world? Just that fact that the scientists are still trying to figure out how to make it in large quantities. But given that they have overcome the difficult task of creating it, that hurdle should be relatively easy to overcome. Now, if someone could only figure out how we could "speak" to sea creatures like the superhero can, life would be perfect!