Is This The End of Scuba Tanks?

by Owen James Burke

scuba

(Image via Scuba-Archery)

The 21% of oxygen within the air we generally breathe is fine for most of us on land, but for lung patients and scuba divers, higher concentrations are needed. This salt crystal which Danish scientists have synthesized from cobalt can absorb all the air from a room into a mere tablespoon-sized crystal, while just a few grains can contain a full breathe of air.

So what? That means that in the near future, you might not have to carry a tank, but perhaps just something like a hand-sized rebreather for dives that could last significantly longer than the roughly 2-hours you get on a couple of the standard, clunky full-sized scuba tanks we use today — the same tanks (more or less) which Jacques Cousteau began diving on around 60 years ago.

Geographical limitations for divers will also be greatly reduced, as they won’t need a diving station with compressors and tanks. So long as you’ve got your own mask, suit and fins, all you would really need (hypothetically) for a week’s worth of diving in the world’s most remote locations would be a pile of these crystals and whatever breathing apparatus is required to release the oxygen from them (which, yes, may present a host of both good and bad outlooks for marine ecosystems due to an increase in tourism, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves).

So far, this pixelated photograph of the crystal is the only image that’s available right now:

cobaltcrystal

Aside from the possibility that it could bring about the obsolescence of heavy and bulky scuba tanks, what other developments might this bring about for undersea exploration and travel? The list is probably long, if not endless.

Read more on PopSci, and if you’re more scientifically inclined, this report published in Chemical Science — OB

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