Washington State University researchers have created a 'super battery', a new material capable of storing vast amounts of energy.
"It is the most condensed form of energy storage outside of nuclear energy," says lead author Choong-Shik Yoo.
The researchers created the material in a diamond anvil cell - a small, two- by three-inch device which produces 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 the researchers increased the pressure inside the chamber, the material became a two-dimensional graphite-like semiconductor.
The team eventually increased the pressure to more than a million atmospheres - comparable to what would be found halfway to the center of the earth, says Yoo.
This forced the molecules to make tightly bound three-dimensional metallic network structures - and, in the process, the huge amount of mechanical energy of compression was stored as chemical energy in the molecules' bonds.
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, says Yoo.