About 80 years ago, science came up with one of the greatest predictions of history, establishing that hydrogen could be transformed into metal if subjected to sufficient pressure. Years went by, and people nearly forgot about after many failed to work out the theory until one day, everything changed.
Ever since the prediction was made, scientists tried hard to fulfill the predictions, although various technical difficulties prevented this from being possible.
Experts long suspected that hydrogen could exist in certain parts of the universe as a metal, however, it has never been witnessed on Earth, let alone created artificially.
Now, a team from Harvard University was finally able to turn hydrogen into metal, and the results are shocking, leading many scientists to conclude that the material is even stranger than they had anticipated.
In order to achieve it, researchers squeezed hydrogen between two diamond heads, one of the hardest materials in nature and chilled it to 5.5 Kelvin (–267.65 degrees Celsius and –449.77 degrees Fahrenheit). Thus, they were able to exert the necessary pressure for the hydrogen element to become reflective, a key property of metals.
The pressure needed to achieve it was incredible.
When scientists first proposed the existence of metallic hydrogen in 1935, they said that metallic hydrogen should emerge at around 25 gigapascals (GPa) of pressure.
It turns out they weren’t even close.
Scientists achieved it at pressures ranging from 465 to 495 GPa—which is nearly 20 times higher than initially predicted.
In addition to corroborating the scientific prediction, this milestone opens the door to a new superconductor, since the hydrogen metal would be able to conduct electricity without opposing any resistance, that is, without generating a loss of energy in the form of heat.
Speaking about the discovery, lead researcher Isaac F. Silvera from Harvard University said that: “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.”
The Harvard researcher had been trying to come up with metallic hydrogen for 45 years.
“The hydrogen went from being transparent, to non-transparent and black, and suddenly it became lustrous,” he explained. “We could see it become a metal.”
The research has been published in Science.