Science

'Never-before-seen material' can store vast amounts of energy

'Never-before-seen material' c...
WSU chemist Choong-Shik Yoo, seen here with students, has used super-high pressures to create a compact, never-before-seen material capable of storing vast amounts of energy (Credit: WSU)
WSU chemist Choong-Shik Yoo, seen here with students, has used super-high pressures to create a compact, never-before-seen material capable of storing vast amounts of energy (Credit: WSU)
View 2 Images
WSU chemist Choong-Shik Yoo, seen here with students, has used super-high pressures to create a compact, never-before-seen material capable of storing vast amounts of energy (Credit: WSU)
1/2
WSU chemist Choong-Shik Yoo, seen here with students, has used super-high pressures to create a compact, never-before-seen material capable of storing vast amounts of energy (Credit: WSU)
2/2

Using super-high pressures similar to those found deep in the Earth or on a giant planet, researchers from Washington State University (WSU) have created a compact, never-before-seen material capable of storing vast amounts of energy. Described by one of the researchers as “the most condensed form of energy storage outside of nuclear energy,” the material holds potential for creating a new class of energetic materials or fuels, an energy storage device, super-oxidizing materials for destroying chemical and biological agents, and high temperature superconductors.

The researchers created the material in a diamond anvil cell – a small, two-inch by three-inch-diameter device capable of producing extremely high pressures in a small space. The cell contained xenon difluoride (XeF2), a white crystal used to etch silicon conductors, squeezed between two small diamond anvils.

At normal atmospheric pressure, the material's molecules stay relatively far apart from each other. But as researchers increased the pressure inside the chamber, the material became a two-dimensional graphite-like semiconductor. At around 50 GPa, the XeF2 transforms into a reddish two-dimensional graphite-like hexagonal layered structure of semiconducting XeF4. Above 70 GPa, it further transforms into a black three-dimensional fluorite-like structure of the first observed metallic XeF8 polyhedron.

The researchers eventually increased the pressure to more than a million atmospheres, comparable to what would be found halfway to the center of the earth. WSU chemistry professor, Choong-Shik Yoo, says all this "squeezing" forced the molecules to make tightly bound three-dimensional metallic "network structures." In the process, the huge amount of mechanical energy of compression was stored as chemical energy in the molecules' bonds.

Yoo says the research is basic science, but that it shows it is possible to store mechanical energy into the chemical energy of a material with such strong chemical bonds.

The study detailing the WSU team’s research, “Two- and three-dimensional extended solids and metallization of compressed XeF2, appears in the journal Nature Chemistry.

20 comments
Anumakonda Jagadeesh
Hitherto the main constraint for wider application of Renewable Energy has been storage of the energy generated. Nearly 30% of the cost of generation goes to storage. The new and Innovative method of \"Using super-high pressures similar to those found deep in the Earth or on a giant planet, researchers from Washington State University (WSU) have created a compact, never-before-seen material capable of storing vast amounts of energy\" is a major breakthrough in Energy Storage.

Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore (AP), India.
TogetherinParis
Now all we need is a proliferation of giant diamond anvil cells--oops!
Sergius
Congratulations, professor Choong-Shik Yoo, very important discovery.
How much energy we have to spend for and how much energy we can withdraw?
Geoffrey Mantel
Err, the article says that the material can store vast amounts of energy, but it doesn\'t actually say that there is a way of retrieving the energy. Can this energy actually be retrieved in a simple and controlled fashion?
kufu
So how much mechanical energy is required to infuse the structure with chemical energy? What\'s the conversion rate? Can the chemical energy be extracted? Is the process repeatable? How expensive are the materials involved? Does this have any chance to ever become commercialized?
I\'m sure it\'s an interesting discovery, and congratulations to the researchers, but without these answers there\'s nothing to get excited about just yet.
Grunchy
Depending on the speed of energy release, this could be a new form of explosive. Because of the special equipment involved it will never be useful (on a wide scale) as a form of energy storage.
Mr Stiffy
More than a million atmospheres......
Ummmmm bicycle pump? Noooooooo
Ummmmmmmmmmm?
Ronnie
If I put some it in my lap top will it the meet manufacturers claims on battery life.
dlbsree
What is the cost involved in producing such super-high pressures in a compact form ? Can it be used to store solar energy in this mode and what is the capacity it can store? Before introducing it researchers should way pros and cons. The high compressed energy should not fall into terrorist activist.
yrag
\" the pressure to more than a million atmospheres, comparable to what would be found halfway to the center of the earth. WSU chemistry professor, Choong-Shik Yoo, says all this \"squeezing\" forced the molecules to make tightly bound three-dimensional metallic \"network structures.\"

This is an impressive accomplishment, but I agree with Kufu: \"So how much mechanical energy is required to infuse the structure with chemical energy?\" Those percentages going in could potentially negate the value of what comes out except for some very specific applications where cost is a far lesser issue than the energy stored, i.e. military.