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Hydrogen Into Metal? Scientists Squeeze It Out of Diamond Press

Image: Hydrogen Into Metal? Scientists Squeeze It Out of Diamond Press

Diamonds used to squeeze hydrogen to pressures above those in Earth's core. (Arizona State University)

By    |   Friday, 27 Jan 2017 10:18 AM

Two scientists say they have finally turned hydrogen into metal, more than 80 years after physicists made predictions about metallic hydrogen.

In 1935, physicists Eugene Wigner and Hillard Bell Huntington predicted hydrogen could turn metallic, but only under a few conditions: “under high enough pressures,” with the “hydrogen molecules broken apart and the electrons squeezed loose,” according to The New York Times.

On Thursday, the scientists said hydrogen had been transformed into a metallic form after it was squeezed between two pieces of diamond, said The Times.

“You can see it becomes a lustrous, shiny material, which is what you expect for a metal,” said Isaac F. Silvera, a physics professor at Harvard University.

Silvera and Ranga P. Dias, a postdoctoral researcher, published the new findings in the journal Science.

“Producing metallic hydrogen has been a great challenge to condensed matter physics,” said their study. “Metallic hydrogen may be a room temperature superconductor and metastable when the pressure is released and could have an important impact on energy and rocketry.”

Last October, Silvera invited a few of his fellow scientists to his lab, where they were able to take a look at the new findings for themselves.

“It took weeks for the excitement to die down,” Silvera said, according to Science Magazine.

After years of research Silvera and Dias said they had finally seen pressured hydrogen turn into a solid metal that has the ability to create electricity.

“If it’s true it would be fantastic,” said Reinhard Boehler, a physicist at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C.. “This is something we as a community have been pushing to see for decades.”

Some experts say this isn’t the first time these types of reports have surfaced though.

“From our point of view it’s not convincing,” said Mikhail Eremets, who is studying solid metallic hydrogen at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany.

“The word garbage cannot really describe it,” said Eugene Gregoryanz, a high-pressure physicist at the University of Edinburgh, who rejected the new findings.

“It’s – how should I put it? – the product of Ike’s imagination from the title to the end,” Gregoryanz said, according to The Times.

“The fact that the paper went through illustrates the fact that the reviewing process has some flaws,” Paul Loubeyre, a physicist at France’s Atomic Energy Commission, wrote in an email.

Silvera defends the findings, saying that “If we did it again, we’d get the same result, I’m certain.”

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Two scientists say they have finally turned hydrogen into metal, more than 80 years after physicists made predictions about metallic hydrogen.
hydrogen, metal, diamond, press
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2017-18-27
Friday, 27 Jan 2017 10:18 AM
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