Researchers from the University of Southern Denmark say they've invented a crystal that pulls oxygen out of the air and even water. Apparently, just a spoonful of the stuff can suck up all the oxygen in a room.
The crystal is a salt made from cobalt*, and it appears to be capable of holding oxygen at a concentration that is 160 times higher than the air we breathe. The paper notes that "an excess" of the substance would bind up to 99 percent of the oxygen in a room.
But what's more remarkable is that the crystal can later release the oxygen when exposed to heat or low-oxygen conditions. In a press release, study author Christine McKenzie likens it to the hemoglobin in our blood, which uses iron to bind and release oxygen in the human body.
If the substance lives up to its promises, it could have a lot of really cool applications—for example, feeding high concentrations of oxygen into hydrogen fuel cells, and lightening the load for lung patients who have to lug around heavy oxygen supplies.