Harvard Scientists Create Metallic Hydrogen

HARVARD SCIENTISTS CREATE METALLIC HYDROGEN

By Divvij Chandna

FEBRUARY 2017

After a century since when it was first theorised, metallic Hydrogen has finally been created by scientists, Isaac F. Silvera and Ranga P. Dias at Harvard University. Hydrogen is the simplest element in the world containing only a single proton and electron but it has now been created in a form which is considered to be one of the most valuable objects existing today. Hydrogen, at room temperature exists in a gaseous state but as the temperature is lowered, it can be liquified.

Nearly 100 years back, it was theorised that Hydrogen can be converted to the solid state at a low temperature and extremely high pressure. The pressure required to convert the hydrogen into a solid was approximately 495 gigapascal which is 1.43 times the pressure at the centre of the Earth!

To create such a pressure, the Hydrogen was kept between two synthetic diamonds in a diamond anvil cell which is a device used to compress objects at high pressures. After a while, the hydrogen got compressed into a black solid which then started shining showing the property of metals being reflective.

Metallic hydrogen being created

This state of hydrogen shows various properties that could be of tremendous use in all fields of science. Firstly, metallic hydrogen is metastable which means that it would continue to remain in this state even after the pressure is removed. It is also a superconductor and shows these properties at room temperature where as other superconductors are formed only at low temperatures. Therefore, metallic hydrogen can conduct electricity almost perfectly and using this in wires would lead to almost zero loss in energy as compared to the 15 percent loss of energy by dissipation currently.

Metallic hydrogen also has magnetic properties and hence, can be used in MRI machines without liquid helium as a coolant. Now, it will be much easier to create high speed trains running due to magnetic repulsion because this metal can be used as a superconductor at room temperature. This is also an extremely efficient rocket fuel because it requires such a large amount of energy to make and when it will be converted back to liquid the amount of energy will be massive in a small volume. This will allow rockets and satellites to reach the outer planets in a much shorter period of time.