AN amazing substance found in places such as the heart of Jupiter has been recreated in an Edinburgh lab.
Researchers have for years been trying to create metallic hydrogen – a form of the element theorised for decades to be created by the incredible pressures inside giant planets.
Hydrogen normally exists as a gas on Earth but an 80-year-old theory predicted than on Jupiter, which the pressure can be more than three million times higher, it exists as a super-hot liquid metal.
The Edinburgh team proved the theory correct by using a pair of diamonds to squeeze hydrogen molecules to record pressures.
They found that at pressures equivalent to 3.25 million times that of the Earth’s atmosphere, hydrogen entered a new solid phase – named phase V.
Hydrogen molecules began to separate into single atoms, while the atoms’ electrons began to behave like those of a metal.
Considered the Holy Grail in the field of physics, this creation is expected to “advance the fundamental and planetary sciences”.
Hydrogen, the simplest and most abundant of elements, makes up 90% of our universe.
The team says that the newly found phase is only the beginning of the molecular separation, and that still higher pressures are needed to create the pure atomic and metallic state predicted 80 years ago.
Professor Eugene Gregoryanz, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Physics and Astronomy, led the research.
He said: “The past 30 years of the high-pressure research saw numerous claims of the creation of metallic hydrogen in the laboratory, but all these claims were later disproved.
“Our study presents the first experimental evidence that hydrogen could behave as predicted, although at much higher pressures than previously thought.
“The finding will help to advance the fundamental and planetary sciences.”