Hydrogen Enters A New Phase

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Hydrogen Enters A New Phase

Harvard scientists have succeeded in creating a new material that has never existed on Earth before: metallic hydrogen.

Considered one of the rarest materials on the planet, metallic hydrogen could lead to the creation of “superconductors,” changing the way electricity is conducted.

Metallic hydrogen is a phase of hydrogen in which the element acts as an electrical conductor.

Issac F. Silvera, a Harvard physics professor, and Ranga P. Dias, a postdoctoral fellow, published a paper in Science describing the experiment that led to the creation of metallic hydrogen. According to the paper, the researchers compressed hydrogen between diamonds to allow it to change phases from gas to solid.

“As we were pressing [the diamonds], we found that at lower pressures the sample is transparent. When you get to about 4 million atmospheres it turns black and we’ve seen [black hydrogen] before. We continued to turn the pressure up and suddenly it became lustrous, reflecting like metal.” Silvera said.

Several leading scholars in the high-pressure physics field expressed skepticism about this new discovery because the experiment was not replicated.

Despite the controversy surrounding metallic hydrogen, Silvera continues to defend his findings, stating that his research methods were scientifically sound. He remains confident that the experiment would render the same results if conducted again.

Image by Zolt Levay

Chamberlain Smith is a freelance writer based in Athens, Georgia.