Researchers from Harvard University have claimed to have created metallic hydrogen, a form of hydrogen capable of superconducting electricity without resistance and at room temperature.
Holy Grail Of High-Pressure Physics
Some skeptics think that the discovery may have been based on error, and that what the researchers produced was not metallic hydrogen but aluminum oxide, which is also known to have the ability to withstand high pressure.
If the work would later be confirmed to have produced a metallic hydrogen, though, the breakthrough comes with significant implications that can revolutionize many technological fields.
Scientists described the material as the holy grail of high-pressure physics, and with incredible properties that the material is predicted to have, its creation could change the way mankind lives.
Room Temperature Superconductor
Because the superconductor is believed to be capable of working under room temperature, the material would not require very cool temperatures to conduct electricity with zero resistance.
Most superconductors have to be cooled to nearly absolute zero. The highest temperature superconductor we know of only works at -70 degrees Celsius.
Existing superconducting materials that are currently used to create powerful magnetic fields in MRI machines and maglev trains are capable of achieving superconductivity at temperatures below -269 degrees Celsius, which can make them expensive to use and non -practical for many purposes.
Possible Applications And Uses Of Metallic Hydrogen
If scientists are able to achieve the same superconductivity sans the extreme temperatures, it could mean that power lines would not lose electricity during transmission from the power plant to consumers' homes. Electrical grid currently loses up to 15 percent of its energy as heat because of resistance.
A room temperature superconductor may change the transportation system, as it could make possible magnetic levitation of high-speed trains. It could also make electric cars more efficient as well as lead to improvements in the performance of electronic devices.
The material may likewise pave way to major improvements in energy storage and production. Since superconductors have zero resistance, superconducting coil can store excess energy, which could be eventually used once needed.
Possible Game Changer In Space Exploration
Metallic hydrogen could similarly be a game changer in mankind's quest to explore farther into space, as it can lead to the creation of more powerful rocket propellants that could bring space probes to more extraterrestrial worlds.
"Metallic hydrogen may be a room temperature superconductor and metastable when the pressure is released and could have an important impact on energy and rocketry," researchers wrote in the journal Science published on Jan. 26.
Researchers explained that tremendous amount of energy is needed to produce metallic hydrogen. If this is converted back into molecular hydrogen, all the energy is released, which can result in a very powerful rocket propellant that can revolutionize rocketry.
"That would easily allow you to explore the outer planets," said study researcher Isaac F. Silvera, from the Lyman Laboratory of Physics at Harvard University. "We would be able to put rockets into orbit with only one stage, versus two, and could send up larger payloads, so it could be very important."