Hundreds of years ago before modern chemistry scientists and experimenters practiced alchemy; attempting to transform metals into gold. Finally today’s scientists may have achieved that dream in a way. Researchers at Harvard University have announced that they were able to turn Hydrogen into metal.
Normally metallic hydrogen does not exist naturally on Earth. This tiny piece of metal hydrogen is the only sample in existence. The Harvard team explains that this is exciting for the applications metallic hydrogen could have for electronics, vehicles and space travel. Hydrogen is a better conductor of electricity than materials currently used. So if it could be in metal form for building electronics it would act as a super-conductor and dramatically improve computers.
Harvard Professor Isaac Silvera, said: “This is the holy grail of high-pressure physics. It’s the first-ever sample of metallic hydrogen on Earth, so when you’re looking at it, you’re looking at something that’s never existed before.”
Silvera along with Dr. Ranga Dias made the discovery in their lab. They used two diamonds to crush liquid hydrogen at a temperature below freezing. This required an immense amount of pressure, greater than is at the center of the Earth. The small piece of hydrogen metal has remained between these two diamonds since it was created. The ultimate test now is to see if the hydrogen metal will remain in this solid form once it is at room temperature. Silvera explains;
“That means if you take the pressure off, it will stay metallic, similar to the way diamonds form from graphite under intense heat and pressure, but remains a diamond when that pressure and heat is removed.”
Metallic hydrogen also has the potential to revolutionize space travel by converting metallic hydrogen BACK into liquid hydrogen. It all makes sense when the professor explains it;
“It takes a tremendous amount of energy to make metallic hydrogen,” Silvera said.
“And if you convert it back to molecular hydrogen, all that energy is released, so it would make it the most powerful rocket propellant known to man, and could revolutionize rocketry. That would easily allow you to explore the outer planets. We would be able to put rockets into orbit with only one stage, versus two, and could send up larger payloads, so it could be very important.”
The Harvard team hopes to conduct the experiment to see if the metallic hydrogen will remain stable and usher in a new age of superfast computers and rocket ships.
Follow Phil Haney on Twitter @PhilHaney