French scientists claim to have created metallic hydrogen

French scientists claim to have created metallic hydrogen
This cut-away illustrates a model of the interior of Jupiter, with a rocky core overlaid by a deep layer of liquid metallic hydrogen. Credit: Kelvinsong/Wikimedia Commons

Scientists have long speculated that at the heart of a gas giant, the laws of material physics exhibit remarkable characteristics. In these kinds of extreme pressure environments, hydrogen gas is compressed to the point that it actually becomes a metal. For years, scientists have been looking for a way to create metallic hydrogen synthetically because of the endless applications it would offer.

At present, the only known way to do this is to compress atoms using a diamond anvil until they change their state. And after decades of attempts (and 80 years since it was first theorized), a team of French scientists may finally have created metallic hydrogen in a laboratory setting. While there is plenty of skepticism, there are many in who believe this latest claim could be true.

The study describing their experiment, titled "Observation of a first order phase transition to near425 GPa," recently appeared on the arXiv preprint server. The team consisted of Paul Dumas, Paul Loubeyre, and Florent Occelli, three researchers from the Division of Military applications (DAM) at the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission and the Synchrotron SOLEIL research facility.

As they indicate in their study, it is indisputable that "metal hydrogen should exist," thanks to the rules of quantum confinement. Specifically, they indicate that if the electrons of any material are restricted enough in their motion, what is known as the "band gap closure" will eventually take place. In short, any insulator material (like oxygen) should become a conductive metal if it is pressurized enough.

They also explain how two advances made their experiment possible. The first has to do with the diamond anvil setup they used, which had toroidal (donut-shaped) diamond tips instead of flat tips. This allowed the team to push past the previous pressure limit established by other diamond anvils (400 GPa) and get as high as 600 Gpa.

French scientists claim to have created metallic hydrogen
Aerial view of the Synchrotron SOLEIL facility. Credit: C. Kermarrec/Synchrotron SOLEIL

The second innovation involved a new type of infrared spectrometer the research team designed themselves at the Synchrotron SOLEIL facility, which allowed them to measure the sample. Once their hydrogen sample had reached pressures of 425 GPa and temperatures of 80 K (-193 °C; -316 °F), they reported that it began absorbing all the infrared radiation, thereby indicating that they had "closed the band gap."

These results have attracted their fair share of criticism and skepticism, largely because previous claims of metallic hydrogen synthesis were either proven to be false or inconclusive. In addition, this latest study has yet to be peer reviewed, and the experiment validated by other physicists.

However, the French team and their have some powerful allies. One person is Maddury Somayazulu, an associate research professor at the Argonne National Laboratory who was not involved in this study. As he said in an interview with Gizmodo, "I think this is really a Nobel prize-worthy discovery. It always was, but this probably represents one of the cleanest and most comprehensive pieces of work on pure hydrogen."

Somayazulu also expressed that he knows the study's lead author Paul Dumas "very well," and that Dumas is an "incredibly careful and systematic scientist." Another physicist who spoke positively of this latest experiment is Alexander Goncharov, a staff scientist from the Carnegie Institute for Science's Geophysical Laboratory.

French scientists claim to have created metallic hydrogen
Top: microscopic images of the stages from the 2017 experiment by Dias and Silvera. Credit: Isaac Silvera; Bottom: The stage images provided by Dumas (et al.), the center image showing the formation of metallic hydrogen. Credit: Loubeyre et al (arXiv 2019)

In 2017, he expressed doubt when a research team from Harvard University's Lyman Laboratory of Physics claimed to have created metallic hydrogen using a similar process. But as Goncharov told Gizmodo of this latest experiment, "I think that the paper contains some good evidence about the band gap closure in hydrogen. Some of the interpretation is incorrect and some data could be better, but I generally trust that this is valid."

As a synthetic material, metallic hydrogen would also have endless applications. First off, it is believed to have superconducting properties at room temperature, and is meta-stable (meaning that it will retain its solidity once it returns to normal pressure). These properties would make it incredibly useful in electronics.

It would also be a boon for scientists engaged in high-energy research and physics, like that currently being conducted at CERN. On top of all that, it would allow astrophysicists, for the first time ever, to study what conditions are like in the interior of giant planets without actually having to dispatch probes to explore them.

In this respect, is a lot like cold fusion. Given the immense payoffs, anyone who claims to have achieved it is naturally going to face some tough questions. All we can do is hope that the latest experiments were successful, and either celebrate or wait for the next attempt.


Explore further

Probing giant planets' dark hydrogen

More information: Paul Loubeyre, et al. Observation of a first order phase transition to metal hydrogen near 425 GPa. arXiv:1906.05634v1 [cond-mat.mtrl-sci]: Preprint PDF: arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1906/1906.05634.pdf
Citation: French scientists claim to have created metallic hydrogen (2019, June 28) retrieved 21 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-06-french-scientists-metallic-hydrogen.html
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Jun 29, 2019
and is meta-stable (meaning that it will retain its solidity once it returns to normal pressure)


That would also make it one heck of a high-explosive, because a chunk of a meta-stable solid can be disturbed with a shock wave into releasing all the energy of the initial compression.

Think about liquid hydrogen. It can't be contained in any vessel at room temperature because it expands 850 times in volume as it boils off. That would make a pressure of about 13,000 PSI. Solid hydrogen would be denser still, so it could expand over 1,000 times its own volume as it explodes directly from solid to gas.

Jun 29, 2019
I doubt many experts believe metallic hydrogen to be stable or even metastable.

Jun 29, 2019
At least at STP, @Shotman. And if it's metastable, what @Eikka says applies.

Jun 29, 2019
The solid metallic Hydrogen was one I admit to having difficulties believing. I would think that the metal would have a very sharp phase transition point at some combination of temperature and pressure. Also, what light frequencies or chemicals could interact and break the metallicity bonds?

A Hydrogen crystal might be very pretty, but not sure I would want one on my finger without a diamond casing. In fact, I suppose it possible to contain such material, initially, at least, in carbon nanotubes, which should at least protect the metal chemically and possibly electronically. What are the magnetic capabilities of the material?

Lots of things this could be applied to. Rocket fuel is hard enough with liquid to gas expansions: this would be a complete game changer, like the Nitrous Oxide on Rubber that Virgin Galactic pioneered for sub-orbital flight.

Jun 29, 2019
"...and is meta-stable (meaning that it will retain its solidity once it returns to normal pressure)."

Matt Williams is an unreliable writer--I've been long familiar with his prose in Universe Today-- and this claim (put obscuriously* in the passive voice) illustrates this.
_________
*Yes, I made this up.

Jun 29, 2019
"...and is meta-stable (meaning that it will retain its solidity once it returns to normal pressure)."

Matt Williams is an unreliable writer--I've been long familiar with his prose in Universe Today-- and this claim (put obscuriously* in the passive voice) illustrates this.
_________
*Yes, I made this up.
In an eliding edit, I'd removed the passive phrasing to which this refers:
"First off,  i t   i s   b e l i e v e d   to have superconducting properties at room temperature"

Jun 29, 2019
That would also make it one heck of a high-explosive, because a chunk of a meta-stable solid can be disturbed with a shock wave into releasing all the energy of the initial compression
Indeed. Perhaps to the point of triggering a pure fusion weapon.

"When hydrogen is squeezed by about 1 million atmospheres of pressure, theory says the electrons will start to flow easily, making a good conductor or even a superconductor. This "metallic hydrogen" will, again theoretically, store immense amounts of energy... A 1977 report (see "Molecular and..." in the bibliography), said metallic hydrogen would have 35 times the explosive capacity of TNT and could be "useful in nuclear weapons.""

-And the fact that the H2 would already be there... Im sure theres been some thoughts on this.

Jun 29, 2019
Indeed. Perhaps to the point of triggering a pure fusion weapon.


On the face of it, I find that unlikely.

Think of it as an assembly of wound-up springs that stay taut because they're all interlocking. When the arrangement breaks, they all begin to uncoil. Since the energy is stored in the compression, there's no way in the system itself to produce a force that is greater than that applied to any individual spring.

A chunk of metallic hydrogen couldn't therefore generate enough pressure to start fusion with itself. It would work only if the energy threshold to fuse deuterium or tritium were lower than regular H2, but setting of a tritium bomb pretty much takes a fission reaction to get enough pressure.

The Davy Crockett nuclear rifle was a fission bomb with a "dial-a-yield" mechanism to boost it up with tritium, selecting between 10 - 20 tons of yield. At the highest setting, it would be a suicide weapon because it could not be fired far enough.

Jun 29, 2019
The later version of the Davy Crockett had the dial-a-yield and it would boost it from 10 tons to 1 kiloton. The regular version was just a normal fission bomb.

But that just goes to show how much power you need to set off a fusion reaction. The Davy was pretty much the smallest feasible fission weapon and very inefficient, yet it was about 1000 times more powerful compared to TNT, so whether 35 times with metallic hydrogen would do it... try and see.


Jun 30, 2019
Think of it as an assembly of wound-up springs that blah
Think of it as something scientists have already considered, and explored, and that the fruits of their labor may be discovered on the internet

"The higher density of metallic hydrogen may provide benefits for the design of fusion weapon capsules (and may reduce the amount of fuel necessary for larger pure fusion weapons)... Metallic hydrogen may also be an extremely powerful explosive, releasing large amounts of energy. However, this is at present speculative, given the uncertain state of metallic hydrogen research. It is unknown at this time whether metallic hydrogen could ever be produced in a useful form."

-IOW real scientists circa 1998 found it somewhat less unlikely than you.

BTW shockwave propagation has nothing to do with initial energy storage.

Jun 30, 2019
More learned speculation

"You can make fusion pellets out of it, that get imploded to fusion densities by lasers, this would make a great source of propulsion, and doesn't require magnetic confinement, you basically make mini hydrogen bombs out of metallic deuterium and tritium, this releases neutrons and alpha particles, the alpha particles can be captured and directed to produce electricity, and neutrons can be absorbed by material which will be heated and a steam turbine can turn that heat into more electricity."

Jun 30, 2019
Yet more

"This is the case for pure-fusion bombs, antimatter bombs, laser-triggered bombs, thermonuclear shaped charges, new explosives based on nuclear isomers,superheavy elements, metallic hydrogen, etc.So far, none of these concepts has led to an actual weapon. But this may be only a question of time, especially since considerable progress has recently been made on some of them."

And

"the analysis of the results obtained in the Russian experiments shows that the thermonuclear burn occurred at a temperature of about 0.65 keV [454] and that the device was only two orders of magnitude below the ignition threshold [455]. Therefore, the discovery ofsome powerful chemical super-explosive, or the synthesis of metallic hydrogen, may be sufficient to make high-explosive driven pure-fusion a reality."

Jun 30, 2019
I doubt many experts believe metallic hydrogen to be stable or even metastable
Except that, if you do a search, you find that lots of experts think it might be meta-stable.

Jun 30, 2019
First off, I am suspicious of any articles posted on the weekend about any major breathrus. The weekend seems to get the most false articles about breakthroughs.

Second if they did this, wouldn't they then have a very small sample of room temperature metallic hydrogen to play with and said so? And that piece would then prove they had done it even without other facilities repeating the experiment. Plus depending on how easily they could repeat their own experiment, they could give those peces to other institutions to be verified that it was indeed metallic hydrogen.

Jun 30, 2019
First off, I am suspicious of any articles posted on the weekend about any major breathrus. The weekend seems to get the most false articles about breakthroughs
But dorkus, the study was not published on a weekend, nor were the experiments done on a weekend. Are you saying that a PR report printed in a popsci blog on a weekend can somehow affect the efficacy of the science?

Look at me, I'm trying to reason with a vandal-for-hire. Why dont you go and trash some other site?

Jun 30, 2019
TheGhostoOtto1923 is so dumb! I have repeatedly told her over and over I have muted her childish rantings, yet everytime I post (I assume) she tries to answer me. What a retard.

Jul 01, 2019
This article needs an authentic and thorough investigation of facts.

Wouldn't a very tiny sample of metallic hydrogen prove the whole article essentially right?

Jul 02, 2019
In my opinion the compression of hydrogen is an exothermic reaction and lead to the emission of a large amount of energy. There is no mention of cryogenic environment and I'm skeptic whether the diamond particles withhold there face centered cubic composition of atoms. All the facts I have seen here seems to be contradicting in itself. This article needs an authentic and thorough investigation of facts. In my academic career I have also done these sorts of blunders in my assignments and survey papers. I am glad that I have opted for a reputed assignment service like http://www.totala...help.com for my submissions.
Who are all these Anonymxxxxxx socks? This one's a spammer while others dont seem to be. Could an AI generate these comments perhaps?

Maybe ban them all just to be safe.

Jul 12, 2019
Think of it as something scientists have already considered, and explored, and that the fruits of their labor may be discovered on the internet


Considered? Yes. Explored. No. They haven't had metallic hydrogen to play with.

These things are also filtered through layers of reporters and writers, which makes it a game of "broken telephone". Some scientists have mused and speculated about something, ran a few back of the envelope calculations based on outdated estimates and came up with a number. Big whoop.

the device was only two orders of magnitude below the ignition threshold [455]. Therefore, the discovery ofsome powerful chemical super-explosive, or the synthesis of metallic hydrogen, may be sufficient to make high-explosive driven pure-fusion a reality


35 times is one order of magnitude above TNT, which isn't even the strongest explosive around. You're putting wishful thinking on top of guessing to "prove" your point.

Jul 12, 2019
Besides, the order of magnitude of a number is the smallest power of 10 used to represent that number, by how many decimal places you're allowed to use. Depending on the definition, 35 may be two orders of magnitude higher from 1, but according to the same definition the range extends to 998 times, so you're not actually saying very much.

In simplistic terms, an order of magnitude is 10x, so what "two orders of magnitude" is really saying is, you have about 1% of the energy required to initiate the reaction.

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