Written by Tharushan Fernando
27 Jan, 2017 | 4:37 pm
In 1935, scientists predicted that hydrogen could be turned in to metal. That Prediction has come true ( despite the older estimates being ‘way off’, according people who have finally made metallic hydrogen).
It was only last year that we reached pressures where the normal form of hydrogen started breaking down into individual atoms—at 380 GigaPascals and now, a pair of Harvard researchers has upped the pressure quite a bit more, and they have finally made hydrogen into a metal.
By by squeezing hydrogen to pressures well beyond those in the center of Earth, Isaac Silvera and his postdoc Ranga Dias had seen a hint that it had morphed into a solid metal, capable of conducting electricity.
There has been a a trembling sense of excitement within the scientific community but critics argue that there needs to be more proof.
“From our point of view it’s not convincing,” says Mikhail Eremets, who is pursuing solid metallic hydrogen at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany whose previous attempts to turn hydrogen in to metal appears at a lower pressure of 270GPa but with the use of hydrogen sulfide under the anvil as opposed to pure hydrogen gas.
These high-pressure studies depend on what are called diamond anvils. This hardware places small samples between two diamonds, which can stand up to extreme pressure. As the diamonds are forced together, the pressure keeps going up.
Current calculations suggested that metallic hydrogen might require just a slight boost in pressure from the earlier work, at pressures as low as 400 GigaPascals. However the researchers behind the new work, Ranga Dias and Isaac Silvera, discovered it needed quite a bit more than that.
In making that discovery, they also came to another realization: normal diamonds weren’t up to the assignment. “Diamond failure,” they called it, “is the principal limitation for achieving the required pressures to observe SMH,” ( SMH means “solid metallic hydrogen”)
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