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Battelle Scientists Named on Patent for Making Oxygen From Light and Water

Early Stage Invention is Advancement toward Artificial Lungs

COLUMBUS, Ohio, Sept. 24 /PRNewswire/ -- Astronauts, submariners, miners, and those suffering from lung ailments take note: Innovation is coming to the rescue. A group of scientists from Battelle has earned a patent for generating oxygen in a process that mimics photosynthesis.

The technology creates oxygen and controls carbon dioxide using light energy and water without having to make electricity. The machine can operate on almost any light source -- solar or other -- to chemically duplicate what plants do when they absorb sunlight energy and convert it into useful chemicals.

Known by the United States Patent Office as No. 7,399,717, Oxygen Generation using Photolytically Driven Electrochemistry (PDEC) Platform Technology, the patent was granted earlier this year. It is one of several PDEC patents developed by Battelle.

Though commercial products based on this patent still are some years away from realization, PDEC is an important step forward to produce oxygen and trap carbon dioxide to maintain breathable air in confined spaces, such as on submarines, in space or high altitude flight, or in mine shafts that become blocked. In the case of an artificial lung, there is ample water in the blood from which a PDEC device could make oxygen.

In order to work, PDEC relies on a photochemical reaction that uses a special catalyst that takes protons and electrons from water and makes molecular oxygen without producing hydrogen gas. Then, the protons and electrons can be used for other purposes, such as trapping carbon dioxide. "When you talk about trouble in breathing, you suffer from excess carbon dioxide instead of insufficient oxygen," said Bruce Monzyk, a research leader at Battelle and inventor of the technology. "It adds oxygen and takes out CO2."

Astronauts will have plenty of oxygen and be able to recycle their exhaled CO2 using a PDEC system and the ample sunlight available during long journeys. When miners are trapped or a submarine runs out of breathable air, PDEC products could one day help keep them alive by providing oxygen and scrubbing out carbon dioxide.

Battelle scientists predict that one of the first generations of PDEC products would be a machine that helps people breathe in confined space with limited oxygen and too much carbon dioxide. Next would be a machine that provides oxygen without a tank. Later, a device may allow surgeons to take a patient's lung offline during surgery. Eventually, it could be the basis for a device implanted into the human chest, replacing patients' lungs.

Battelle is the world's largest non-profit independent research and development organization, providing innovative solutions to the world's most pressing needs through its four global businesses: Laboratory Management, National Security, Energy Technology, and Health and Life Sciences. It advances scientific discovery and application by conducting $4 billion in global R&D annually through contract research, laboratory management and technology commercialization. Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, Battelle oversees 20,400 employees in more than 120 locations worldwide, including seven national laboratories which Battelle manages or co-manages for the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Contact Media Relations Manager Katy Delaney at (410) 306-8638 or or T.R. Massey, media relations specialist, at (614) 424-5544 or for more information.

SOURCE Battelle
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