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Superpowered energy-storing wonder stuff created in lab

Future exploding laptop battery = nuclear bomb going off

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US-based boffins say they have created a never-seen-before type of ultra-bizarre stuff in the lab by using incredible pressures similar to those found deep inside planets. The scientists believe that their creation is capable of storing an unfeasible amount of energy.

"It is the most condensed form of energy storage outside of nuclear energy," says Choong-Shik Yoo, chemistry prof at Washington State uni.

Yoo and his colleagues created "novel two- and three-dimensional extended non-molecular phases" of xenon difluoride (XeF2) by squashing their samples incredibly viciously. This was done using two small "anvils" made of diamond, rammed together by powerful machinery.

The diamond anvil moleculo-juicer rig was eventually cranked to 100 Giga-Pascals and beyond - more than a million times ordinary atmospheric pressure - the style of pressure one would be under halfway to the Earth's core.

The large amounts of energy used in the squashage were "stored as chemical energy in the molecules' bonds", according to the scientists. A statement issued by Washington State says:

Possible future applications include 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.

It sounds as though one might be talking here not so much about a new class of super-powered batteries as something more akin to rocket fuel or explosives (although of course any sufficiently good energy storage method has the potential to be a bomb or at least a fire hazard if things go wrong, as we know well from li-ion gadget batteries).

Perhaps the space ships of tomorrow will lift easily into orbit without the need for troublesome, expensive disposable boosters, powered by super-energetic ultrapressure explodo wonder-fuel. Certainly the comedy iPod trouser disasters of tomorrow seem likely to be worth watching out for - possibly of mushroom-cloud magnitude, from what professor Yoo suggests.

Subscribers to Nature Chemistry can read all about it here. ®

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