Researchers have created the metallic form of hydrogen by placing it under intense high pressures. They believe that this elusive form of hydrogen makes up much of the giant planets in our solar system, and the sun.
Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe. It’s an important ingredient in the building blocks of life. It is necessary to make water and organic molecules. It’s extremely lightweight and often found as a gas of molecular hydrogen.
Philip Dalladay-Simpson, physicist at the University of Edinburgh, and the co-author of the study, said, “The hydrogen system is very important to fundamental physics, and has paved the way to applied models in the early stages of quantum mechanics.”
Three researchers from the University of Edinburgh put hydrogen under the highest pressures using diamond anvils. In such kind of experiments, two diamonds are used to crush any material that is placed between them. This arrangement of the diamonds is able to generate intense amount of pressure. The material being crushed experiences pressures of over 380 GigaPascals. Each GigaPascal is roughly equivalent to 10,000 atmospheres of pressure.
The researchers discovered that at pressures equivalent to 3.25 million times that of Earth’s atmosphere, hydrogen entered a new solid phase. This phase is called phase V. At this phase, hydrogen’s molecules began to separate into single atoms, while the atoms’ electrons began to behave like those of a metal. The researchers added that higher pressures are needed to create the pure atomic and metallic state.
Professor Eugene Gregoryanz, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Physics and Astronomy, and the lead author of the study, said: “The past 30 years of the high-pressure research saw numerous claims of the creation of metallic hydrogen in the laboratory, but all these claims were later disproved. Our study presents the first experimental evidence that hydrogen could behave as predicted, although at much higher pressures than previously thought. The finding will help to advance the fundamental and planetary sciences.”