With lackluster battery tech one of the biggest hurdles standing between existing energy economies and those of the green, renewable future, there's a lot of pressure on researchers to come up with the next big battery breakthrough. And pressure, it turns out, might be just the ticket. By exerting the kinds of super-high pressures found deep within the Earth on a unique compound, researchers at Washington State University's Pullman campus have created a novel new material with the capacity to store huge amounts of mechanical energy as potential chemical power.
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Calling the material "the most condensed form of energy storage outside of nuclear energy," the researchers created the super-battery inside a diamond anvil cell, a small chamber that can create extremely high pressures within a confined space. The team filled the chamber with xenon difluoride, a white solid usually used to etch silicon conductors.
The science is in the squeezing; under normal atmospheric conditions, the molecules of xenon difluoride keep a respectable distance from one another. But under the intense pressures produced by the diamond anvils the molecules are forced together into metallic 3-D structures. At one million atmospheres -- roughly equivalent to the pressure found halfway to the center of the Earth -- the xenon difluoride is pressed neatly into these structures where the mechanical energy of all that pressure is stored in the chemical bonds between the molecules.
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