Scientists at Harvard University have successfully turned hydrogen, the lightest of all elements, into metal - achieving a near-100-year-old dream and theoretically enabling a revolution in technological capability.
This all began in 1935, when scientists predicted that hydrogen could become metallic under the pressure of 25 GigaPascals - that is 10,000 atmospheres of pressure.
But, it turns out this prediction was way off… To begin breaking down hydrogen into individual atoms, it took 380 GigaPascals. And now, Harvard scientists put this into practice - literally cranking up the pressure to near 495 GigaPascals (71.1 million pounds per square inch, more than can be found at the Earth’s core) and turned it metal.
“This is the Holy Grail of high-pressure physics,” Thomas D. Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences Isaac Silvera said of the quest to find the material. “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.”
How on Earth did they do this? Well, they literally forced small samples of hydrogen to become metallic by crushing it between two diamonds. Named “diamond anvils,” they are hard enough to withstand pressure of this magnitude.
It’s great that this has happened, but what is being relatively unreported is just how this breakthrough can revolutionise the future of technology…
The next test for this metal is to see if it is stable under normal temperatures and pressures. If this is successful, then it will possess the capabilities of a super-conductor, the likes of which we’ve never seen before - massively improving anything that uses an electric current.
Super-computers could be made on the cheap, high-speed levitating trains would be possible, and even the capability to explore outer-space will be brought closer to humanity than ever before - creating a fuel that is four-times more powerful than what exists today.
It’s certainly an intriguing piece of work, that could have potentially massive implications on the future. Fingers crossed the upcoming stability experiment goes well.
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