Quantum simulations uncoverhydrogen's phase transitions

June 23, 2010
As indicated in the graphic, the gas giant planets of our solar system - Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune - are mostly composed of hydrogen. Image courtesy of NASA

Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe and is a major component of giant planets such as Jupiter and Saturn.

But not much is known about what happens to this abundant element under high-pressure conditions when it transforms from one state to another.

Using quantum simulations, scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of L'Aquia in Italy were able to uncover these phase transitions in the laboratory similar to how they would occur in the centers of .

They discovered a first order phase transition, a discontinuity, in between a molecular state with low conductivity and a highly conductive atomic state. The critical point of the transition occurs at high temperatures, near 3100 degrees Fahrenheit and more than 1 million atmospheres of pressure.

"This research sheds light on the properties of this ubiquitous element and may aid in efforts to understand the formation of planets," said LLNL's Eric Schwegler.

The team used a variety of sophisticated quantum simulation approaches to examine the onset of molecular diassociation in hydrogen under high-pressure conditions. The simulations indicated there is a range of densities where the of the fluid increases in a discontinuous fashion for temperatures below 3100 degrees Fahrenheit.

There is a liquid-liquid-solid multiphase coexistence point in the phase diagram that corresponds to the intersection of the liquid-liquid phase transition, according to Miguel Morales from the University of Illinois and lead author of a paper appearing online in the for the week of June 21-25.

Explore further: Prototype hydrogen storage tank maintains extended thermal endurance

Related Stories

Squashing Silane into Metal

January 9, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Squeeze it hard enough and hydrogen, the most abundant and lightest element in our Universe, strangely takes on a metallic nature. During this state, as it loses hold of its electrons, hydrogen is believed ...

On the path to metallic hydrogen

August 3, 2009

Hydrogen, the most common element in the universe, is normally an insulating gas, but at high pressures it may turn into a superconductor. Now, scientists at the Carnegie Institution in Washington D.C., US, have discovered ...

Evidence of a new phase in liquid hydrogen

February 25, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- We like to think that we’ve got hydrogen, one of the most basic of elements, figured out. However, hydrogen can still surprise, especially once scientists start probing its properties on the most fundamental ...

Recommended for you

Short wavelength plasmons observed in nanotubes

July 28, 2015

The term "plasmons" might sound like something from the soon-to-be-released new Star Wars movie, but the effects of plasmons have been known about for centuries. Plasmons are collective oscillations of conduction electrons ...

'Expansion entropy': A new litmus test for chaos?

July 28, 2015

Can the flap of a butterfly's wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas? This intriguing hypothetical scenario, commonly called "the butterfly effect," has come to embody the popular conception of a chaotic system, in which ...

Lobster-Eye imager detects soft X-ray emissions

July 28, 2015

Solar winds are known for powering dangerous space weather events near Earth, which, in turn, endangers space assets. So a large interdisciplinary group of researchers, led by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Megadeth312
not rated yet Jun 23, 2010
Quantum simulations "uncoverhydrogen's" phase transitions

.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.