Scientists Are Close In Hammering Down Metallic Hydrogen

By Jasper Nikki De La Cruz | Jan 07, 2016 11:05 PM EST

A team of physicists from the University of Edinburgh may have spotted a new phase that can be a precursor to the creation of metallic hydrogen. Hydrogen in solid metallic form has long been a sought-after breakthrough by the scientific community.

University of Edinburgh physicists published their findings that highlight the new phase that might unlock the synthetic creation of metallic hydrogen. They called this phase as "phase V." The process in achieving phase V is using two diamonds to crush hydrogen and deuterium. They were able to squeeze out hydrogen molecules into a new solid phase.

The hydrogen in phase V showed some interesting and unusual properties in this particular stage. Its molecules began to separate into single atoms. In these atoms, the electrons are becoming just like what one would typically observe on metal electrons. Phase V, however, is just the beginning. Higher pressures are still needed in creating a metallic form of hydrogen.

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"We think we've reached a state of the material that is probably the precursor to metallic hydrogen," Ross Howie, one of the researchers and co-author of the published study, said. "If you compare what we've observed experimentally with what's theoretically predicted for metallic hydrogen - they're very strong similarities between the two," Howie added.

Hydrogen in metallic form is one of chemistry's most interesting problems. Hydrogen is already the most abundant element in the universe, but in metallic form it is very elusive. NASA already sent out a probe to Jupiter with one objective: investigate metallic hydrogen on the planet's surface.

Metallic hydrogen is considered the only superconductor that could conduct electricity without resistance at room temperature. Metallic hydrogen is also extremely stable, meaning, it can be used in lightweight building materials for theoretical floating ocean cities and replacing liquid hydrogen in rocket fuel. Metallic hydrogen rocket fuel will effectively quadruple the propellant and thrust of modern aircraft.

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