Scientists have made a new discovery involving turning hydrogen into metal and it could potentially do amazing things for the world.
For nearly a century, researchers have hoped to turn hydrogen – which is apparently the lightest of all the elements on earth – into metal, the Independent reports.
In a feat of spectacular chemistry, the scientists at Harvard University have miraculously created a tiny portion of what is deemed the ‘rarest’ and potentially the ‘most valuable’ material in-the-world.
The creation of metallic hydrogen could revolutionise technology, with ultra-fast computers, super-efficient vehicles and crazy high-speed levitating trains.
It would provide a complete overhaul of life as we know it and improve anything that runs on electricity – which is practically everything – and change the way we think of space travel.
All of these wonderful benefits of turning hydrogen into metal, could potentially never come to fruition though if scientists fail to stabilise the element, so it can perform at normal temperatures and pressures.
Professor Isaac Silvera said:
This is the holy grail of high-pressure physics.
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.
Presently, the hydrogen-metal substance can only be viewed through two diamonds, used to crush liquid hydrogen to an unimaginably low temperature below freezing.
And the pressure needed to create it, is more than what can be found at the centre of the planet.
Professor Silvera believes the unpredictable metal will stabilise at room temperature and plans to ease the pressure off over the next few weeks to test his theory.
That means if you take the pressure 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.
As much as 15 per cent of energy is lost to dissipation during transmission, so if you could make wires from this material and use them in the electrical grid, it could change that story.
Once harnessed, the metal could be used to create a rocket fuel, four times more powerful than the best options available today, dramatically altering our potential to explore space.
Professor Silvera added:
It takes a tremendous amount of energy to make metallic hydrogen.
And if you convert it back to molecular hydrogen, all that energy is released, so it would make it the most powerful rocket propellant known to man, and could revolutionise rocketry.
That would easily allow you to explore the outer planets.
We would be able to put rockets into orbit with only one stage, versus two, and could send up larger payloads, so it could be very important.
Some scientists are not so optimistic however, predicting that hydrogen would be unstable and would gradually decay.
Professor Silvera remarked:
I don’t want to guess, I want to do the experiment.
Ranga was running the experiment, and we thought we might get there, but when he called me and said, ‘The sample is shining’, I went running down there, and it was metallic hydrogen.
I immediately said we have to make the measurements to confirm it, so we rearranged the lab… and that’s what we did.
It’s a tremendous achievement, and even if it only exists in this diamond anvil cell at high pressure, it’s a very fundamental and transformative discovery.
Here’s the full video:
The exciting breakthrough could lead to huge developments in the medical world too, with potentials for updating how MRI scanners are used as well as revolutionising technology.
It sounds like the researchers are on the brink of something life-changing.
Fingers crossed their experiments are successful.