If you ever wanted to turn water into gold like the good ol’ alchemists, well now’s your chance to create something similar; by turning water into shiny golden metallic material. It’s not gold but hey it’s the next best thing.
Researchers from 11 different institutions from around the world have been successful in creating metallic water for the first time. As alkali metals and water don’t generally mix well together, the key for this experiment was to form a thin layer of water around the electron-sharing alkali metal and not the other way round. This experiment was carried out inside a vacuum chamber, where a sodium potassium alloy in liquid state was suspended in the chamber and was followed by dripping a water vapor on the alloy. This resulted in a very thin layer on the outside of the metallic droplet. Since water is an insulator at its purest form, it was a challenge to make it conductive but this was done by using an alkali metal as they can easily release electrons from their outer shells. The electrons then flowed from the Na-K droplet into the water, thereby giving us the conductive metallic water.
To explain this phenomenon, the scientists studied the metallic water under optical reflection spectroscopy and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and were able to confirm the metallic phase. The coolest part about this experiment is that we are able to see the transition of the alloy into metallic water with our eyes and marvel as it gets covered with a golden glow! “Our study not only shows that metallic water can indeed be produced on Earth, but also characterizes the spectroscopic properties associated with its beautiful golden metallic luster,” commented Dr. Robert Seidel, an author of this study.
The one thing that is of utmost significance in this experiment is the timing. Since alkali metals react with water, the key to avoiding an explosion was to find a way to diffuse the electrons faster than the reaction between the two elements. While the metallic water state was just for a few seconds, it opened up new doors for research in the future.