New Crystal Could Let Divers Breathe Underwater
April 22, 2011 --
Earth Day isn't just about life on land. It's also an opportunity to explore the organisms that inhabit the oceans. The University of Miami's Rosenstiel of Marine and Atmospheric Science hosts an annual photo contest for the best snapshot of life under the sea. More than 600 images were submitted from an international pool of photographers. This shot of two transparent gobies, taken in MarsaAlam, Egypt, claimed the top prize as the best overall photo of the competition. Explore some of the other photos to claim top prizes in the 2011 underwater photography contest in this slide show.
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This pygmy seahorse, Hippocampus bargibanti, may be difficult to spot, given how well it blends into its environment and the fact that these seahorses don't grow any larger than an inch. But this snapshot earned first prize in the contest's "Marco" category.
This vibrantly colored nudibranch (Cratena peregrina) was seen in Tarragona, Catalonia, Spain.
A nudibranch and a mantis shrimp rest on the sea floor of Bali's Seraya Beach in Indonesia.
Cuttlefish are seen mating off in the Oosterschelde estuary near the town of Zeeland, Netherlands. This photo took the top prize in the "Wide-Angle" category.
A stingray is surround by cardinal fish in this photo taken in Mogan in Gran Canaria, Spain.
This brightly colored jellyfish was spotted in Lake Worth Lagoon in Riviera Beach, Fla. The photo took the top prize in the "Fish or Marine Animal Portrait" category.
This web burrfish (Chilomycterus antillarum was spotted in the same location as the jellyfish in the previous slide. If it looks like it's smiling, that's because this photo took home second prize in the portrait category.
This frog catches its own reflection at the surface of a lake in Belgium just as the photographer snaps a picture.
This snapshot of an orange spotted filefish, Oxymonacanthus longirostris, claimed the top prize in the "Student" category. The fish was spotted in the water of YasawasIslands, Fiji.
This whale shark (Rhincodon typus) and its entourage were spotted cruising the depths of Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia.
Scuba diving is great fun until your tank starts running out of oxygen. But what if you could just gather the oxygen from the water that's all around you on a dive? A new material synthesized by researchers in a lab could do just that.
Scientists have created a crystalline material that can pull all the oxygen out of room with just a spoonful. And it can release that oxygen when and where it's needed. What some have dubbed the Aquaman crystal offers tantalizing promise for those tethered to bulky equipment.
"This could be valuable for lung patients who today must carry heavy oxygen tanks with them," said professor Christine McKenzie of the University of Southern Denmark, in a statement. "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. A few grains contain enough oxygen for one breath, and as the material can absorb oxygen from the water around the diver and supply the diver with it, the diver will not need to bring more than these few grains."
The new material uses the element cobalt, bound in an organic molecule.
"Cobalt gives the new material precisely the molecular and electronic structure that enables it to absorb oxygen from its surroundings," McKenzie said. "Small amounts of metals are essential for the absorption of oxygen, so actually it is not entirely surprising to see this effect in our new material," she said.
The material, like a sponge, can absorb oxygen and release it many times over. Once the oxygen is absorbed it can be released with a small amount of heat or by exposing it to low oxygen pressure, like a vacuum. The researchers are also investigating whether the oyxgen release could be triggered by light.
"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," McKenzie said.
Hat tip: Uproxx