Author Topic: Metallic Hydrogen  (Read 664 times)

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Offline Tassie Dave

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Metallic Hydrogen
« on: January 28, 2017, 05:55:18 AM »
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Nearly a century after it was theorized, Harvard scientists report they have succeeded in creating the rarest material on the planet, which could eventually develop into one of its most valuable.

Thomas D. Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences Isaac Silvera and postdoctoral fellow Ranga Dias have long sought the material, called atomic metallic hydrogen. In addition to helping scientists answer some fundamental questions about the nature of matter, the material is theorized to have a wide range of applications, including as a room-temperature superconductor.

This story probably arrived too late for the rogues to cover in this week's episode.
I could see them being excited, but cautiously skeptical about some of the claims.

Quote
A room temperature superconductor, Dias said, could change our transportation system, making magnetic levitation of high-speed trains possible, as well as making electric cars more efficient and improving the performance of many electronic devices. The material could also provide major improvements in energy production and storage. Because superconductors have zero resistance, superconducting coils could be used to store excess energy, which could then be used whenever it is needed.

Metallic hydrogen could also play a key role in helping humans explore the far reaches of space, as a more powerful rocket propellant.

http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/01/a-breakthrough-in-high-pressure-physics/

I hope it lives up to their high expectations, but it is a cool breakthrough either way.


Offline daniel1948

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Re: Metallic Hydrogen
« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2017, 08:45:04 AM »
That is fascinating science. But then they go on to an awful lot of speculation. If it turns out to be meta-stable, and if this and if that...

They even say that if it is meta-stable and if it can be made to return to its normal state, then it would have potential as rocket fuel. But if it can return from its meta-stable state (assuming that even exists, which they don't know) to its normal state, then all those other applications are in danger because if you are depending on the meta-stable state and then it reverts, for whatever reason, that would be a catastrophic release of energy and an abrupt collapse of whatever you're doing with it as a superconductor.

Say you have a mag-lev train based on this, and the state changes and it's no longer superconducting. The train would settle on its tracks and probably crash. My point is that they are speculating so wildly that they're contradicting their own speculations.

It would be nice if they just talked about the science, and the creation of a material that's never before existed on Earth, and leave off the wild speculation.

Great science. Poor reporting.
Daniel
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Offline fuzzyMarmot

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Re: Metallic Hydrogen
« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2017, 02:29:41 PM »
Maybe they'll pick it up next week. Steve blogged about it: http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/scientists-create-metallic-hydrogen/

Offline Igor SMC

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Re: Metallic Hydrogen
« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2017, 05:37:41 PM »
They mentioned that the process to create metallic Hydrogen is very energy intensive.... So, this alone wouldn't be a deal breaker for the majority of the applications? How are you expected to manufacture hundreds of thousands of kilometers of transmission line cables, when to generate just some grams of it you need to use a shitload of energy and time?
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Online arthwollipot

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Re: Metallic Hydrogen
« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2017, 06:07:09 PM »
I understand that this is extremely interesting, but I don't have the chemistry background to understand why. Can someone explain it to me like I'm a 5-year-old?

Offline PANTS!

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Re: Metallic Hydrogen
« Reply #5 on: January 29, 2017, 12:04:31 PM »
I understand that this is extremely interesting, but I don't have the chemistry background to understand why. Can someone explain it to me like I'm a 5-year-old?

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Offline daniel1948

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Re: Metallic Hydrogen
« Reply #6 on: January 29, 2017, 05:48:25 PM »
I understand that this is extremely interesting, but I don't have the chemistry background to understand why. Can someone explain it to me like I'm a 5-year-old?

Hydrogen has just one proton, and therefore just one electron. But there's room for two electrons in the lowest orbital. This means that a hydrogen atom can accept an electron from another atom, forming an ionic bond, or it can share an electron with another atom, especially another hydrogen atom, forming a covalent bond.

The simple version is that hydrogen is highly reactive and forms bonds with other atoms, so you pretty much never get hydrogen atoms without bonding to other atoms, as in H2 (molecular hydrogen) or H2O or a gazillion other compounds.

Under high enough pressure H2 will become a liquid, useful in rockets and maybe (?) in fuel cells, but it's still a molecular liquid, the same way water is a molecular liquid.

But under really high pressure (maybe at the center of Jupiter) the molecular bond is broken, and the atoms of hydrogen are not bound to other atoms, and that makes it a metal because now the electrons are free to flow freely throughout the liquid, rather than each pair of electrons being bound to a pair of hydrogen atoms in the molecule.

What was theorized, and now perhaps demonstrated (I gather there's still controversy about whether this team actually did what they say) is that under higher pressure still, the atoms of this liquid metal hydrogen (think liquid mercury for an analogy) will freeze into a solid metal.

They speculate (and I'm skeptical) that when they release the pressure the solid hydrogen metal may remain solid. (Mercury does not remain solid at room temperature, why would hydrogen?)

It's fascinating because solid metal hydrogen has never existed before on Earth, and never before been demonstrated to actually be possible. It will be even more fascinating if I am wrong and their speculation proves true and the stuff remains solid at room temperature, though as Igor points out above, it seems as though producing the stuff in industrial quantities would be impossible.
Daniel
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Online arthwollipot

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Re: Metallic Hydrogen
« Reply #7 on: January 30, 2017, 02:04:44 AM »
Thanks.

Offline gebobs

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Re: Metallic Hydrogen
« Reply #8 on: January 30, 2017, 02:50:35 PM »
They mentioned that the process to create metallic Hydrogen is very energy intensive.... So, this alone wouldn't be a deal breaker for the majority of the applications? How are you expected to manufacture hundreds of thousands of kilometers of transmission line cables, when to generate just some grams of it you need to use a shitload of energy and time?

Perhaps the technology will mature and the energy investment will be reduced.

Offline Billzbub

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Re: Metallic Hydrogen
« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2017, 03:54:56 PM »
They mentioned that the process to create metallic Hydrogen is very energy intensive.... So, this alone wouldn't be a deal breaker for the majority of the applications? How are you expected to manufacture hundreds of thousands of kilometers of transmission line cables, when to generate just some grams of it you need to use a shitload of energy and time?

Perhaps the technology will mature and the energy investment will be reduced.

If you are using it as rocket fuel, then the energy intensiveness of creating it is a lot less important than how much energy you get out of it in flight.

Offline teethering

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Offline daniel1948

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Re: Metallic Hydrogen
« Reply #11 on: January 31, 2017, 09:52:39 AM »
They mentioned that the process to create metallic Hydrogen is very energy intensive.... So, this alone wouldn't be a deal breaker for the majority of the applications? How are you expected to manufacture hundreds of thousands of kilometers of transmission line cables, when to generate just some grams of it you need to use a shitload of energy and time?

Perhaps the technology will mature and the energy investment will be reduced.

The prediction is that the metallic hydrogen occurs under intense pressure. That sort of pressure is always going to be technologically difficult and energy-intensive. To make the process commercially viable they would either need to find a way to make it without the pressure (think ice-9) or find a commercial application of such high value that the expense is justified.

This is pure science whose value is likely to be in the knowledge obtained from it, rather than in practical uses of the material.
Daniel
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Offline stands2reason

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Re: Metallic Hydrogen
« Reply #12 on: March 07, 2017, 09:30:30 PM »
I understand that under sufficient pressure the atoms will remain close enough together they their electrons will form an electron sea which results in metallic electrical properties.

But I don't understand the theorized metastable property. Why would the material not still behave like a gas, or even like a solid that would melt or sublimate once the pressure was released?