Creation Of Metallic Hydrogen – The First Room Temperature Superconductor

Spread the love

Harvard scientists have created metallic hydrogen, one of the rarest and most potentially valuable materials in the world. At a pressure of 495 gigapascal (GPa) and temperature of -268 degree Celsius, they converted gaseous hydrogen into its metallic form, and they consider it as the Holy Grail of high-pressure physics. The reason why this creation is so phenomenal is because of its superconductivity at room temperatures.

The electrical conductors which we use in our homes have some amount of electrical resistance associated with them. The electric transmission wires for example dissipate so much energy as heat due to this resistance. This loss of power has been calculated to be as high as 30 percent over long distance transmission. So to avoid this power loss and create efficient transmission lines, developing room temperature superconductors has been a long standing focus of research. Superconductivity is the ability of a material to conduct electricity with zero resistance. Hitherto developed superconductors are applicable only at extremely negative temperatures. One of the highest temperatures at which superconductivity could be achieved is -150 degree Celsius for a Tl-Ba-Cu oxide, far below our environmental temperatures. Hence scientists have been working on developing materials that could possess superconductivity at room temperatures. Metallic hydrogen is said to possess this room temperature superconductivity and it could potentially revolutionise the environment around us.

In 1935, Eugene Wigner and Hillard Bell Huntington from Princeton University theoretically calculated that molecular hydrogen can be converted into metallic state at 25 GPa in their paper “On the Possibility of a Metallic Modification of Hydrogen”. But it was not possible to experimentally verify for long, as achieving such a high pressure of 25 GPa was almost impossible. With advances in science and accurate calculations, the theoretical pressure required for this transition kept increasing to between 400 and 500 GPa. Meanwhile in 1968, Neil Ashcroft, a British solid state physicist, stated that metallic hydrogen behaves as superconductor up to a temperature as high as 17 degree Celsius. It did not take long to couple these two facts and try to synthesise metallic hydrogen as a source of superconductivity.

Harvard scientists Isaac Silvera and postdoctoral fellow Ranga Dias have created metallic hydrogen in their lab. They compressed hydrogen sample at 495 GPa between two polished tips of diamond anvil. The compressed solid hydrogen was initially transparent at low temperatures. With increase in pressure, the specimen turned more dark and opaque. As the pressure reached 495 GPa, it became shiny and reflective, indicating that it has transformed itself into a metal. It is said that metallic hydrogen is metastable, which means that it will retain its property even after removing the compression.

hydrogen transformation
Transformation of hydrogen (Source: Newscientist)

If the created metal proves to be what it is expected to be, then electric appliances and conductors will see tremendous change. Room temperature super conductors enable transfer of electricity across long distances without any loss of power. Magnetic levitation and high-speed trains are possible with considerably simpler infrastructure. It also holds the potential to become a very powerful rocket propellant. Tremendous amount of energy would be released when converting metallic hydrogen back to molecular hydrogen and that could be used to propel rockets.

But all these claims and applause do not come without criticism and scepticism. Researchers have expressed that the finding is not that convincing. There is just one specimen identified and tested for reflectivity at high pressure, to verify whether it is real metallic hydrogen. They state . Nevertheless, Harvard University confidently proclaims that it has made the first ever sample of metallic hydrogen on Earth.

Featured image source: Nextbigfuture, Video source: Harvard

9 thoughts on “Creation Of Metallic Hydrogen – The First Room Temperature Superconductor

  • November 29, 2017 at 7:39 am
    Permalink

    That’s awesome

    Reply
  • November 30, 2017 at 3:30 pm
    Permalink

    This is pretty awesome

    Reply
  • December 24, 2017 at 8:33 pm
    Permalink

    Awesome! Can’t wait to see usable results and products 🙂

    Reply
  • January 1, 2018 at 3:17 pm
    Permalink

    Very interesting

    Reply
  • January 8, 2018 at 6:17 pm
    Permalink

    An invention that mankind truly can be proud of for sure.

    Reply
  • January 10, 2018 at 11:59 pm
    Permalink

    The amount of benefits from conversion is simply amazing! I hope people continue to work on this! The loss of energy over long distances is the biggest downside of our power grids! This would/could solve that problem!

    Reply
  • January 17, 2018 at 10:11 pm
    Permalink

    I came back to re-read this article because I saw something on the SCI Channel about Metallic Hydrogen. I didn’t realize what a big deal this was when I first read it. It was the first time it has ever been created on earth. That is absolutely amazing! Theoretical Physics is such a great field! They can prove the existence of something that’s never been created or existed on earth on paper. Then other scientists step in and try to make it real in the physical world. So many things we have now wouldn’t be possible without the hard work of Theoretical Physicists! Kudos to them!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *