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