A study published in journal Science yesterday claims that for the first time in the history of mankind, solid hydrogen exists on earth.
This solid hydrogen was created by squeezing the normally gaseous element with such force that it turned into a metal and if repeatable this process will be capable of producing an entirely new material that could be a highly efficient electricity conductor.
“This is the holy grail of high-pressure physics,” commented Harvard physicist Isaac Silvera, who is one of the study’s authors. “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.”
This is the first time empirical results have been obtained for a theory proposed in 1935 by physicists Hillard Bell Huntington and Eugene Wigner. They posited that hydrogen which is normally a gas, could exist in a metallic state if treated with extreme pressure.
Many scientists have attempted to develop metallic hydrogen, as it is believed to have potential as a superconductor; a material that can conduct electricity with very small amounts of resistance.
To create metallic hydrogen Isaac Silvera and Ranga Dias squeezed a hydrogen sample at more than 71.7 million pounds per square inch (32.5 million kg per 6.5 square cm), which is more pressure than exists at the center of our earth.
The scientists were able to create this amount of pressure by using synthetic diamonds mounted in a device known as a “diamond anvil cell”. One of their innovations that allowed this process to be successful was a new method of treating the diamonds, and this kept them from cracking. It was only with this innovation that the solid hydrogen superconductor could be formed.
The inability of the diamonds to withstand the immense pressure needed to make metallic hydrogen has been a stumbling block up to this point.
The question that is now being asked is whether the pressurized hydrogen maintains its metallic properties at room temperature?
If solid, metallic hydrogen is stable at normal temperatures it would be very useful as a superconductor, and could have a wide variety of uses in cutting edge technology. Superconductivity at room temperature is a dream in science, and this puts us closer than we ever have been before.
If shown to be legitimate and repeatable, this breakthrough represents a leap forward in human technology and marks the start of greater things for our development.