Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

For future superconductors, a little bit of lithium may do hydrogen a lot of good

08.10.2009
Study suggests strategies for converting hydrogen to metal at significantly lower pressures

Scientists have a long and unsuccessful history of attempting to convert hydrogen to a metal by squeezing it under incredibly high and steady pressures.

Metallic hydrogen is predicted to be a high-temperature superconductor. A superconductor is a state of matter where electrons, and thus electricity, can flow indefinitely and without resistance.

In a paper published this week in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of scientists from Cornell University and the State University of New York at Stony Brook announce a theoretical study that predicts the metallization of hydrogen-rich mixtures at significantly lower pressures.

By adding small amounts of lithium to hydrogen, the study calculates that the resulting system may be metalized at around one-fourth the pressure required to metalize pure hydrogen. Funding for the project was provided by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Hydrogen and lithium are the first and third lightest elements in the universe, respectively. Under the temperature and pressures found on Earth, hydrogen is a gas and lithium is a metal. In hydrogen gas, the atoms are robustly bonded together in pairs and each hydrogen atom contributes one electron to the bonding. In chemistry shorthand, hydrogen is called H2.

Hydrogen and lithium normally react with each other to form a stable compound. This lithium-hydrogen compound, or LiH, is not metallic.

Metallic hydrogen is thought to be present in the interiors of planets like Jupiter and Saturn because of the intense gravitational forces and pressures that are found there.

On Earth, researchers have tried to pry loose hydrogen's electron by squeezing it between the facets of a diamond anvil cell under pressures up to 3.4 million atmospheres. The pressure at sea level is one atmosphere. The pressure at the center of the Earth is around 3.5 million atmospheres. Scientists have not been successful with this method of steady pressures. They have been, however, with shock-wave methods.

To get around hydrogen's decidedly fixed stance of not becoming a metal under currently accessible laboratory pressures, the research team used sophisticated computer programs.

The programs theoretically calculate if hydrogen can be metalized by combining a lithium atom with varying numbers of hydrogen atoms. The programs also compute if metallic hydrogen can be made under pressures achievable in a laboratory.

The lithium and hydrogen combinations predicted by the study currently do not exist on Earth.

One of the combinations predicted by the team contains one lithium atom for every six hydrogen atoms or LiH6 (see top right image). The complex calculations predict that in the hypothetical compound the Li atom is triggered to release its lone outer electron, which is then distributed over the three H2 molecules.

Under pressure, the hypothetical reaction forms a stable and metallic hydrogen compound.

The calculations also predict that LiH6 could be a metal at normal pressures. However, under these conditions it is not stable and would decompose to form LiH and H2.

"The stable and metallic LiH6 compound is predicted to form around 1 million atmospheres, which is around 25 percent of the pressure required to metalize hydrogen by itself," said Eva Zurek, lead author of the paper and an assistant professor of chemistry at The State University of New York, Buffalo.

"Interestingly, between approximately 1 and 1.6 million atmospheres, all the LiH combinations studied were stable or metastable and all were metallic," said Roald Hoffmann, co-author, recipient of the 1981 Nobel Prize in chemistry and Cornell's Frank H.T. Rhodes Professor of Humane Letters, Emeritus.

Another one of the hypothetical compounds studied by the team was composed of one lithium atom and two hydrogen atoms or LiH2 (see bottom right image).

"The theoretical study opens the exciting possibility that non-traditional combinations of light elements under high pressure can produce metallic hydrogen under experimentally accessible pressures and lead to the discovery of new materials and new states of matter," said Daryl Hess, a program director in the NSF Division of Materials Research.

"Once again, these researchers have taken chemistry to a new frontier," said Carol Bessel, a program director in the NSF Division of Chemistry. "They have described, through their theories and calculations, molecules that test our fundamental assumptions about atoms, molecules and structures. In doing so, they challenge the experimentalists to make what they have imagined in their minds a reality to be held in the hand."

The team members believe the information gleaned from the study suggests that one may combine large amounts of hydrogen with other elements. The information may also some day assist with the design of a metallic hydrogen-based superconductor.

"We have already been in touch with laboratory experimentalists about how LiH6 might be fabricated, starting perhaps with very finely divided forms of the common LiH compound along with extra hydrogen," said Neil W. Ashcroft, co-author, and Cornell's Horace White Professor of Physics, Emeritus.

Additional authors include Artem R. Oganov, an associate professor, and Andriy O. Lyakhov, a post doctoral research associate, of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Department of GeoSciences. Zurek was a postdoctoral associate in Hoffmann's research group when the studies were completed.

Funding for the study was provided by the NSF Divisions of Chemistry and Materials Research. The research was also supported in part by NSF through TeraGrid resources provided by the National Center for Supercomputing Applications.

Jennifer A. Grasswick | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nsf.gov

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Open, flexible assembly platform for optical systems
24.01.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Produktionstechnologie IPT

nachricht A big nano boost for solar cells
18.01.2017 | Kyoto University and Osaka Gas effort doubles current efficiencies

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Scientists spin artificial silk from whey protein

X-ray study throws light on key process for production

A Swedish-German team of researchers has cleared up a key process for the artificial production of silk. With the help of the intense X-rays from DESY's...

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Breaking the optical bandwidth record of stable pulsed lasers

24.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Choreographing the microRNA-target dance

24.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Spanish scientists create a 3-D bioprinter to print human skin

24.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>