Scientists are closing in on turning hydrogen into a metal in liquid or solid form
Randy Montoya/Sandia Labs
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.
Metallic hydrogen in its solid form, scientists propose, could be a