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The First-Ever Metallic Hydrogen On Earth Developed, Could Revolutionize Rocketry, Transportation System And Superconductor

First Posted: Jan 27, 2017 03:30 AM EST

Harvard scientists developed the first-ever atomic metallic hydrogen on Earth after almost a century of theorizing. It is considered one of the most valuable materials on the planet and believed to have a wide range of applications including a room-temperature superconductor.

The invention was described and published in Science on Jan. 26, 2017. It was led by Isaac Silvera, the lead scientist at Harvard University and Thomas D. Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences and Ranga Dias, a post-doctoral fellow, according to Phys.org.

The material was predicted and theorized for almost a century or about 80 years. Professor Silvera said that this is the holy grail of high-pressure physics. He further said that it is the first-ever sample of metallic hydrogen on Earth. So when people are looking at it, they are looking at something that has never existed before.

The process of creation is not that easy because it involves creating it at incredibly high pressures at extremely low temperatures. In fact, Prof. Silvera has been trying to create metallic hydrogen for already 45 years, according to Science Alert.

Professor Silvera said that the most exciting part is that they pressurized hydrogen gas to sufficiently high pressures and they saw it convert into a metal. He further said that the hydrogen went from being transparent to non-transparent and black and suddenly it became lustrous. He added that they could actually see it become a metal.

So, how do they turn this non-metal hydrogen into metal? Professors Silvera and Dias squeezed a tiny hydrogen sample at 495 gigapascals or more than 71.7 million pounds-per-square-inch. This is greater than the pressure at the center of the Earth. With these extreme pressures, the solid molecular hydrogen that consists of molecules on the lattice sites of the solid breaks down. Then, the molecules that are bound securely are separated to transform into atomic hydrogen, which is referred to as the metal.

The discovery of the atomic metallic hydrogen could be applied to various fields. These include the transportation system that could make the magnetic levitation of high-speed trains possible, improving the creation of electric cars and electronic devices, energy production and storage and could revolutionize rocketry.

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