Oxygen Destroyer Material Can Suck All the Oxygen Out of a Room

Thursday, 02 October 2014 - 12:36PM
Thursday, 02 October 2014 - 12:36PM

In the original 1954 Godzilla, the titular monster was killed by a fictional weapon of mass destruction called the Oxygen Destroyer, which disintegrates oxygen atoms. Now, scientists have created a less destructive version of the fictional device, one that doesn't destroy oxygen permanently but binds and stores it for later use. 


The material, created by researchers from the University of Southern Denmark, consists of cobalt ions held together by oxygen and nitrogen atoms, encased in a network of carbon atoms. The cobalt ions powerfully attract oxygen atoms through a mechanism similar to that by which the iron in hemoglobin attracts oxygen in the blood. One spoonful of this synthetic material can absorb all the oxygen in a room at up to 160 times the concentration found in the air. 


"In the lab, we saw how this material took up oxygen from the air around us," said researcher Christine McKenzie.


But once the material absorbs the oxygen, the oxygen is not destroyed, but stored indefinitely. It can be released by applying heat or low oxygen pressure, or a vacuum. "We are now wondering if light can also be used as a trigger for the material to release oxygen -- this has prospects in the growing field of artificial photosynthesis," said McKenzie.


This material could have far-reaching implications for making hydrogen fuel cells more efficient, which could have a great impact on the clean energy movement. Furthermore, the ability to efficiently purify oxygen from the air would be eminently useful for divers, in addition to improving the quality of life for lung patients. According to McKenzie, "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... This could be valuable for lung patients who today must carry heavy oxygen tanks with them."


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