First proposed by Eugene Wigner and Hillard Bell Huntington as early as in 1935, metallic hydrogen is a potential wonder substance. The only drawback was that conditions on earth were not extreme enough to create it and thus, its existence has remained theoretical up till now. Harvard scientists Isaac Silvera and Ranga Dias have come up metallic hydrogen by squeezing a hydrogen sample with pressures that were never before produced on Earth, even greater than the pressure that exists at the center of the planet, it has been reported by Phys.org. According to Silvera, “This is the holy grail of high-pressure physics and 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.” these scientists have been able to create metallic hydrogen in superconductor breakthrough that could revolutionize technology and even take man to Mars.
It is important to know that this significant breakthrough can lead to a revolution in the field of electronics by coming up with superfast chips. Not only this, but it can also be used to create superfast maglev trains and rocket fuel. Harvard physicists have claimed that by applying 4.95 million atmospheres of pressure to liquid hydrogen, they were able to make it metallic, a state of hydrogen that had never existed on Earth before. Physicists have predicted that metallic hydrogen is an authentic superconductor and if it is stabilized, it could revolutionize everything from energy storage to rocketry which would be something very big for mankind. According to a report, two studies were conducted with different approach that attempted to create metallic hydrogen, and now, more than 80 years after it was predicted to be possible, the Harvard University team has finally managed to produce the elusive state.
Physicists Isaac Silvera, who has been working on this problem for 45 years, and Ranga Dias published their study’s results in the journal Science. To develop metallic hydrogen, they squeezed two opposing heavy-duty diamonds together to compress gaseous hydrogen, and then they transitioned it into its liquid state by lowering the temperature [hydrogen liquifies at a temperature of -252°C (-423°F)]. They then gradually increased the applied pressure on the solid hydrogen by twisting a steel screw to exert force on the diamond anvil. It was then that changes were noticed. They observed that at about 2 million atmospheres (or 200 gigapascal), the hydrogen stayed transparent. It turned an opaque black at 4 million atmospheres, pressure levels greater than those found at the center of the Earth.
Then, at around 4.95 million atmospheres, the hydrogen started to reflect 90 percent of light shone on it. This meant it had become metallic, a state of hydrogen that had never existed on our planet before and thus Silvera called it “the holy grail of high-pressure physics.” This is by no means a small feat as transforming hydrogen gas into a metallic state, a phenomenon known as the Wigner-Huntington transition was only hinted at and no one was able to attempt it. any tests to bring this phenomenon to life had not been successful because diamonds would break under such extreme pressure, either due to flaws in the diamonds or because the hydrogen itself diffused into the crystalline lattice of the diamonds, which led them to break apart. To make this task easy and prevent failure, Silvera’s team used a reactive ion etching technique to remove any nanoscale imperfections and created a diffusion barrier by coating the diamonds with a thin layer of alumina.
For those who do not know, Hydrogen is element number one on the periodic table and it is the most basic atom, just one proton with one electron. However, it is also necessary to now that it is known to possess incredible potential in its metallic form. Physicists declare that metallic hydrogen is an authentic superconductor that gives metallic hydrogen a myriad of potential applications. Since years teams of physicists have been working hard to develop metallic hydrogen, which is highly prized because of its potential as a superconductor, a material that is extremely efficient at conducting electricity but this is the first ever sample of metallic hydrogen on Earth, so when we look at it, we are looking at something that has never existed before. It is also important to understand that metallic hydrogen is predicted to be meta-stable which means that if the pressure is taken 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.
Silvera has speculated that even if you could make wires out of superconducting metallic hydrogen and then if you transport energy, you would have no dissipation because it doesn’t have resistance. Right now, in our electrical grid we lose energy just by heating up the wire during transmission. His partner in research, Dias also believes it could lead to the creation of superconducting magnetic storage, which “maintains persistent currents in superconducting coils.” They both are of the view that this could be a very useful tool for this could be a useful tool for maintaining equilibrium in the power grid when using renewable sources like solar and wind, which produce electricity intermittently.
As it is expected to work both at room temperatures or even higher, metallic hydrogen could replace the magnets currently used in MRI machines as well which could prove revolutionary in the long run. Not only this, but this new found metallic hydrogen phenomenon could also make “the most powerful rocket propellant known to man,” as four times as powerful as existing rocket propellants that use molecular hydrogen and liquid oxygen and it would take the rocket industry by storm making it easy for man to access the galaxy and other planets very easy. There is no doubt that NASA will be ready to fund this project in future keeping in mind the benefits this research would be offering.
Sheraz Khan Baloch is a social critic and working with Affordable Dissertation UK. He loves to look at the changing social trends closely and criticize accordingly. He is a computer graduate. However due to his interest in writing and sharing thoughts with others, he writes articles for different blogs.