Scientists have created metallic hydrogen. Will they get a Nobel Prize?

Scientists have long assumed that in the center of gasthe giants (planets that do not have a solid surface and consist largely of hydrogen and other gases), the laws of the physics of materials do not work in the same way as on other planets. Under such conditions, hydrogen under enormous pressure is compressed to such an extent that it literally becomes metal. For many years, researchers have been looking for an opportunity to create metallic hydrogen in the laboratory for its unique properties, which could be useful in many areas of human activity.

What benefits can a person bringmetallic hydrogen? For example, they are useful in the manufacture of electronics of the future, due to its special properties of electrical conductivity. And on its basis it will be possible to make new rocket fuel.

It is also interesting to read: Hydrogen and asteroids could engender life on Mars.

How to get metallic hydrogen?

Today the only availableThe method of obtaining metallic hydrogen is the use of special diamond anvils, where hydrogen atoms are compressed and cooled until they change their state. For nearly 80 years, scientists have been trying to turn hydrogen gas into metal - and now they have succeeded. To do this, they applied to him a pressure that is greater than in the core of the Earth.

Publications about such results have already appearedearlier, however, not a single group of scientists was able to confirm them. For example, in 2011 it was reported that scientists were able to “squeeze” hydrogen to the desired state using pressure above 220 GPa (gigapascals), which is more than 2 million times more than atmospheric, which is 100 kPa (kilopascals). In 2017, another group of scientists stated that they managed to reach pressure already at 495 GPa. By the way, then they did not have time to conduct the main part of the experiments. The only sample of metallic hydrogen was lost after one of the diamond anvils crumbled into dust during an attempt to measure pressure. What became of the sample is incomprehensible. Maybe he was lost among the diamond particles, maybe turned back into gas. You can read more about this failure here.

French scientists considered previous experience and mistakestheir colleagues, as well as their previous research and still achieved the desired result. It was possible thanks to two discoveries. First, they changed the design of the diamond anvil, making the tops of the diamond tips not flat, but toroidal, with a donut-shaped depression. Such a change made it possible to increase the maximum pressure limit from 400 GPa to 600 GPa.

The tip of the improved diamond anvil. The diameter of the annular cracks is about 150 microns (a little more than the thickness of a human hair)

Secondly, they created a new type of special infrared spectrometer - a tool that allows you to measure a hydrogen sample.

With the experiment, scientists began to compress in the diamondanvil sample hydrogen and simultaneously cool. When the pressure reached 425 GPa, and the temperature became -193 degrees Celsius, the hydrogen began to absorb the infrared radiation of the spectrometer. This was evidence of the transition of hydrogen to another, solid state.

Image of transitional phases of hydrogen atexperiment in 2017 (top) and phase change at different pressures - 315, 427 and 300 GPa - with the experiment of French scientists. In the second case, it is clear that the hydrogen sample became opaque.

The statement of the French scientists was taken withdistrust, mainly because previous statements about the successful creation of metallic hydrogen turned out to be erroneous, untrue or simply unprovable.

Nevertheless, many people already now say that a group of French physicists may receive the Nobel Prize for their discovery - the most prestigious prize in science.

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