Sodium loses its luster: A liquid metal that's not really metallic

Sep 26, 2007
Sodium loses its luster: A liquid metal that's not really metallic
Unlike other solid metals, sodium melts differently when additional pressure is added. Image: Kwei-Yu Chu/LLNL

When melting sodium at high pressures, the material goes through a transition in which its electrical conductivity drops threefold. In a series of new calculations, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists describe the unusual melting behavior of dense sodium.

“We found that molten sodium undergoes a series of pressure-induced structural and electronic transitions similar to those observed in solid sodium but beginning at a much lower pressure,” said LLNL’s Eric Schwegler.

Schwegler and former colleagues Stanimir Bonev, now at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, and Jeans-Yves Raty at FNRS-University of Liège in Belgium report the new findings in the Sept. 27 edition of the journal, Nature.

Earlier experimental measurements of sodium’s melting curve have shown an unprecedented pressure-induced drop in melting temperature from 1,000 K at 30 GPa (30,000 atmospheres of pressure) down to room temperature at 120 GPa (120 million atmospheres of pressure).

Usually when a solid melts, its volume increases. In addition, when pressure is increased, it becomes increasingly difficult to melt a material.

However, sodium tells a different story.

As pressure is increased, liquid sodium initially evolves into a more compact local structure. In addition, a transition takes place at about 65 GPa that is associated with a threefold drop in electrical conductivity.

The researchers carried out a series of first-principle molecular dynamic simulations between 5 and 120 GPa and up to 1,500 K to investigate the structural and electronic changes in compressed sodium that are responsible for the shape of its unusual melting curve.

The team discovered that in addition to a rearrangement of the sodium atoms in the liquid under pressure, the electrons were transformed as well. The electronic cloud gets modified; the electrons sometimes get trapped in interstitial voids of the liquid and the bonds between atoms adopt specific directions.

“This behavior is totally new in a liquid as we usually expect that metals get more compact with pressure,” Raty said.

Source: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Explore further: Technique simplifies the creation of high-tech crystals

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Research and applications of iron oxide nanoparticles

Feb 26, 2014

From the mysteries of producing red colors in traditional Japanese Bizen stoneware to iron-oxidizing bacteria for lithium ion batteries, Professor Jun Takada is at the forefront of research on innovative ...

Recommended for you

Finding the 'heart' of an obstacle to superconductivity

1 hour ago

A team at Cornell and Brookhaven National Laboratory has discovered that previously observed density waves that seem to suppress superconductivity are linked to an electronic "broken symmetry," offering an ...

Exotic state of matter propels quantum computing theory

2 hours ago

So far it exists mainly in theory, but if invented, the large-scale quantum computer would change computing forever. Rather than the classical data-encoding method using binary digits, a quantum computer would process information ...

'Comb on a chip' powers new atomic clock design

20 hours ago

Researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have demonstrated a new design for an atomic clock that is based on a chip-scale ...

User comments : 0