Fuel of the future: how hydrogen turns into metal

(ORDO NEWS) — Using a diamond anvil, the researchers compressed hydrogen into a metal.

Researchers at the French Commission for Alternative Energy and Atomic Energy (CEA) have been able to shape a hydrogen sample into a form that exhibits the properties of a metal, according to a 2020 paper published on Nature .

The work took many years, as the process itself is incredibly complex. The scientists hermetically sealed the supercooled, solid hydrogen in foil and then subjected it to extremely high pressure using a diamond as an anvil.

In previous experiments, the pressure was limited to 400 gigapascals, but then the researchers came up with the idea to use not a flat, but a toroidal (donut-like) anvil. This allowed it to withstand much higher loads, and at 425 gigapascals, the experiment was finally successful: hydrogen began to show the first metallic properties.

The scientists emphasize that cooling and pressure are two critical factors for changing the state of matter: “As the pressure rises, cooled hydrogen becomes more and more opaque, and at 425 gigapascals its surface becomes shiny, well reflecting light.”

Fuel of the future how hydrogen turns into metal 2Hydrogen is one of the most common chemical elements on Earth. It is easy to obtain from water, and therefore the source of potential raw materials for the production of metallic hydrogen or, say, hydrogen fuel is practically inexhaustible.

In addition, for its extraction it is not necessary to harm the environment and destroy the ecosystem, as is the case with fossil fuels.

In addition, the researchers also have a purely scientific experiment: until now, scientists do not know a place in the Universe where enormous pressure is combined with extremely low temperatures, which means that hydrogen in metallic form in the world either does not exist at all, or its source is still hidden from us.

According to NASA representatives, metallic hydrogen is a potential fuel that will not only fundamentally change the earth’s energy, but also give us a chance to carry out space flights, which so far can only be dreamed of.

Now scientists are aiming to get enough metallic hydrogen to carry out some of the necessary tests and experiments. The ultimate goal, of course, is to develop a cheap and relatively simple way to produce this amazing substance on an industrial scale.

Fuel of the future how hydrogen turns into metal 1

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