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Scientists create new state of hydrogen using diamonds

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh have come closer to create a new state of hydrogen or so-called metallic hydrogen. Two diamonds were used to crush hydrogen and deuterium, its heavier isotope, achieving pressures of more than 380 gig Pascals, which the highest yet reported.

Metallic hydrogen, which was predicted about 8o years ago, could help in creating ultra-fast computers and even super rocket fuel. Researchers used a set-up called diamond anvil cell, to compress its sample of molecular hydrogen. In the apparatus, two diamonds were placed opposite to each other, and their polished tips are made to compress into a cavity containing the sample.

“We think we’ve reached a state of the material that is probably the precursor to metallic hydrogen,” said Ross Howie, co-author of the study.

Hydrogen is the universe’s most abundant chemical element — about 75 percent of normal matter and 90 percent by number of atoms. Hydrogen is found in a form of gas at normal temperatures on Earth. In 2012, scientists at Max Planck Institute for Chemistry claimed to have created metallic hydrogen, but drew criticism, after they failed to confirm it. Since many exotic phases were discovered during the search for metallic hydrogen, this was named as Phase V. The authors believed that it did not represent a full metallic form, as bonds between hydrogen atoms were still present.

During the experiment, scientists were able to achieve more than 350 gigapascals (3.5 million atmospheres) at room temperature. The pressure on the molecules of hydrogen gas turn them into liquid and then into a solid. With an increase in pressure, the atoms in the hydrogen molecules become closer, and there is an increase in the electrical conductivity of the crystalline material.

Thus, the hydrogen atoms would pile eventually, so their electrons become shared. Dr. Howie said that it’s been predicted that metallic hydrogen could be a room-temperature superconductor, which is still yet to be achieved with any material. The study has been published in the journal Nature.

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