The substance is also able to release the stored oxygen in a controlled manner when it is needed, so just a few grains could replace the need for divers to carry bulky scuba tanks.
The key component of the new material is the element cobalt, which is bound in a specially designed organic molecule. In standard form – and depending on the available oxygen content, the ambient temperature, and the barometric pressure – the absorption of oxygen by the material from its surroundings may take anything from seconds to days.
"An important aspect of this new material is that it does not react irreversibly with oxygen – even though it absorbs oxygen in a so-called selective chemisorptive process," said Professor Christine McKenzie from the University of Southern Denmark. "The material is both a sensor, and a container for oxygen – we can use it to bind, store, and transport oxygen – like a solid artificial hemoglobin."