The world’s first and only piece of metallic hydrogen, which was discovered last month, has suddenly gone missing. The discovery of metallic hydrogen stirred the ire of the scientific community and was a target of severe criticism, and now it seems as the orb of extremely compressed matter has vanished into thin air!
The team of Harvard scientists, who spent over four decades trying to forge it, are flabbergasted and bemused. The team leader Professor Isaac Silvera told ScienceAlert,
“Basically, it’s disappeared. It’s either someplace at room pressure, very small, or it just turned back into a gas. We don’t know.”
The reason for such skepticism from the scientific community was because metallic hydrogen holds something of a legendary status in the world of materials, whose creation is compared to modern-day alchemy. The metal is suspected to exist in the cores of gas giants like Jupiter or Saturn. The material can be created under extremely high pressures, about 5 million times that of our planet’s atmosphere, hence, the difficulty of the task.
The material’s existence was hypothesized back in the mid-1930s, and since then researchers have tried to create it, to no avail, until the last month. The team from Harvard University managed to use a diamond anvil to hammer the material into existence, sending shockwaves throughout the scientific world.
The legitimacy of the claims was tough to confirm experimentally since working in such high pressures is no child’s play. But there is substantial evidence that the Harvard team were telling the truth. The team kept the sample near to absolute zero and at extremely high pressures to keep it from violently expanding back outwards into a gas. But during one routine test, one of the diamond grips shattered and took the metallic hydrogen sample with it.
The team is now hoping against hope that it might just be the case of the sample “falling to the back of the sofa,” since it was no thicker than a fifth of the width of a human hair. But there’s a chance that it has turned back into gas due to its instability, which means that our planet might have lost the only sample of metallic hydrogen it ever had.
The discovery of metallic hydrogen was groundbreaking as it stores enough energy to create the world’s most powerful rocket fuel. As a powerful, shiny superconductor, it can also conduct electricity without resistance.
Putting Sherlock on the case might be our last hope now!