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The pressure is on to make metallic hydrogen

Scientists are closing in on turning hydrogen into a metal in liquid or solid form

By
9:00am, August 10, 2016
Z machine

UNDER PRESSURE  Physicists use powerful electrical pulses in the Z machine at Sandia National Laboratories to create liquid metallic hydrogen for fleeting moments.

In a few highly specialized laboratories, scientists bombard matter with the world’s most powerful electrical pulses or zap it with sophisticated lasers. Other labs squeeze heavy-duty diamonds together hard enough to crack them.

All this is in pursuit of a priceless metal. It’s not gold, silver or platinum. The scientists’ quarry is hydrogen in its most elusive of forms.

Several rival teams are striving to transform hydrogen, ordinarily a gas, into a metal. It’s a high-stakes, high-passion pursuit that sparks dreams of a coveted new material that could unlock enormous technological advances in electronics.

“Everybody knows very well about the rewards you could get by doing this, so jealousy and envy [are] kind of high,” says Eugene Gregoryanz, a physicist at the University of Edinburgh who’s been hunting metallic hydrogen for more than a decade.

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