New material steals oxygen from air

Oct 11, 2014

Credit: Image courtesy of University of Southern Denmark

By Science Daily

Researchers from the University of Southern Denmark have synthesized crystalline materials that can bind and store oxygen in high concentrations.The stored oxygen can be released again when and where it is needed.

We do fine with the 21 per cent oxygen in the air around us. But sometimes we need oxygen in higher concentrations; for example lung patients must carry heavy oxygen tanks, cars using fuel cells need a regulated oxygen supply. Perhaps one day in the future even sunlight-driven “reversible” fuel cells will be made. With these we will have to separate oxygen from hydrogen in order to recombine them in order to get energy.

Now Professor Christine McKenzie (center in photo) and postdoc Jonas Sundberg, Department of Physics, Chemistry and Pharmacy at the University of Southern Denmark have synthesized a material that absorb oxygen in large quantities and store it.

“In the lab, we saw how this material took up oxygen from the air around us,” says Christine McKenzie.

The new material is crystalline, and using X-ray diffraction the researchers have studied the arrangement of atoms inside the material when it was filled with oxygen, and when it was emptied of oxygen.


 

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11 comments on “New material steals oxygen from air

  • @OP link – With this complexity it becomes possible to produce devices that release and/or absorb oxygen under different circumstances — for example a mask containing layers of these materials in the correct sequence might actively supply a person with oxygen directly from the air without the help of pumps or high pressure equipment.

    ..

    ” This could be valuable for lung patients who today must carry heavy oxygen tanks with them. But also divers may one day be able to leave the oxygen tanks at home and instead get oxygen from this material as it “filters” and concentrates oxygen from surrounding air or water.

    It looks like it has potential, but would need some mechanism to get rid of exhaled CO2 and maintain a balance of other gasses – which is not mentioned.



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  • 2
    Docjitters says:

    Hmm… Just throwing out ideas but how about:

    1) Sealed-rebreather-type circuit with plain old soda lime (or something more efficient) to scrub the CO2 out? Limited duration yes, but you wouldn’t need a big cylindrical O2 tank (assuming you pre-charge the circuit with enough O2) and could make the rest of it any shape as long as it fits on the diver.

    2) Use a very small hydrogen bottle as a ‘recharge’ carrier gas as some breath is lost – less space and tends to stay liquid once you’ve got it chilled in bottle anyway. Heat loss to the diver could be an issue though…

    3) A gas-permeable section exposed to the water with a CO2 scrubber acting as reverse of the O2 absorber/releaser (so not lime) – which would tend to release CO2 to the surrounding environment

    I suspect all of these approaches have been tried at some point. The neatest I think would be if 3) could be made efficient enough that the flow is powered by breathing/water movement action only – a totally passive O2 concentration circuit.



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  • Alan,

    If this material steals oxygen from water then aren’t we left with Hydrogen?

    Can we then have a simple valve to get rid of CO2 and then have Hydrox. Divers use it to dive really deep and for longer periods of time.

    Don’t really know the process but thought Id have stab!!



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  • Olgun Oct 13, 2014 at 7:20 am

    If this material steals oxygen from water then aren’t we left with Hydrogen?

    I think it is talking about dissolved oxygen, (as absorbed by fish), not molecular combinations of oxygen.

    Levels of dissolved oxygen in water can be higher or lower than in air.



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  • There is more to the air we breath than oxygen. It is about 79 % nitrogen. So the breathing device must get rid of the carbon, but retain the nitrogen. Since it takes either heat or a vaccumn to release the oxygen, will you still need a tank to hold high pressures?



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  • 7
    Docjitters says:

    That’s why I was suggesting a way of getting rid of CO2 by dissolving it into the surrounding water whilst nitrogen is relatively insoluble in water and even less so in salt water (see page 570) – part 2 of my suggestion above has a teeny hydrogen tank to replace any nitrogen in the circuit that is lost.

    For it to work though, I’m assuming they can ‘tune’ the crystals to have a steep absorption/release curve, like actual haemoglobin. Higher pressures at depth could help – you need less percentage oxygen inhaled to maintain yourself. We breathe out about 16% oxygen; Hydrox-type mixtures only contain a few percent oxygen which might be easier to scavenge. Of course haven’t fixed the problem of rapid increase in oxygen needed to maintain the gradient across the lung when surfacing…



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  • 8
    Docjitters says:

    I was suggesting getting rid of CO2 by dissolving it into the surrounding water whilst nitrogen is relatively insoluble in water and even less so in salt water (see page 570) – part 2 of my suggestion above has a teeny hydrogen tank to replace any nitrogen in the circuit that is lost.

    For it to work though, I’m assuming they can ‘tune’ the crystals to have a steep absorption/release curve, like actual haemoglobin. Higher pressures at depth could help – you need less percentage oxygen inhaled to maintain yourself. We breathe out about 16% oxygen; Hydrox-type mixtures only contain a few percent oxygen which might be easier to scavenge. Of course haven’t fixed the problem of rapid increase in oxygen needed to maintain the gradient across the lung when surfacing…



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  • Docjitters Oct 16, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    That’s why I was suggesting a way of getting rid of CO2 by dissolving it into the surrounding water whilst nitrogen is relatively insoluble in water and even less so in salt water (see page 570) – part 2 of my suggestion above has a teeny hydrogen tank to replace any nitrogen in the circuit that is lost.

    Helium is commonly used at depth to avoid nitrogen narcosis. Would that not be safer than a hydrogen oxygen mixture which is potentially explosive?



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  • 10
    Docjitters says:

    Possibly – to be honest I was partly taking the super-light philospohy to its extreme conclusion; not a lot of difference in absolute mass between the two. The other consideration at extreme depth is that Heliox can trigger High Pressure Neurological Syndrome. Hydrogen also washes in and out of body tissues faster.

    I figure that unless the oxygen ‘scavenger’ is super-efficient or the diving only at serious commercial depth, it’s going to be a balance between narcosis (at depth) vs oxygen supply (needing depth to generate the oxygen gradient) vs needing to carry larger amounts of exotic (to safely go down then surface without passing out!)

    And if we’re talking about more than a few metres depth, we haven’t even talked about needing extra gas to pressurise the circuit so one could even take a breath in against the weight of all the water!



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  • 11
    Light Wave says:

    The future implications of this are erm….interesting……..Yikes dont take that new coat out of the box……or it’ll suffocate you…..



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