Lithium is the first metal in the periodic table and is the least dense solid element at room temperature. It is most commonly known for its use in batteries for consumer electronics, such as cell phones and laptop computers. And, with only three electrons per atom, lithium should behave like a model, simple metal.
However, this research has shown that under pressure ranging between about 395,000 atmospheres (40 GPa) and about 592,000 atmospheres (60 GPa), lithium behaves in a manner that's anything but simple. Not only does it become a liquid at room temperature, but it then refuses to freeze until the temperature reaches a chilly -115o F. At pressures above about 592,000 atmospheres (60 GPa), when lithium does eventually solidify, it is into a range of highly complex, crystalline states. The highest pressure reached in the study was about 1.3 million atmospheres (130 GPa).
The research team, including Malcolm Guthrie, Stanislav Sinogeikin and Ho-kwang (Dave) Mao, of Carnegie's Geophysical Laboratory, believe that this exotic behavior is directly due to the exceptionally low mass of the lithium atom. An elementary result of quantum physics is that atoms continue to move, even when cooled to the lowest possible temperature. As the mass of an atom decreases, the importance of this residual, so called 'zero-point,' energy increases. The researchers speculate that, in the case of lithium, the zero-point energy increases with pressure to the point that melting occurs. This work raises the possibility of uncovering a material which never freezes. The prospect of a metallic liquid at even the lowest temperatures raises the intriguing possibility of an entirely novel material, a superconducting liquid, as proposed previously by theorists for hydrogen at very high pressure.
This work is supported by a research grant from the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and facilities made available by the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility. It is also based on work supported as part of the EFree initiative, funded by the US Department of Energy, Office of Science. HPCAT, where some of the research was conducted, is supported by DOE-BES, DOE-NNSA, and NSF. APS, where some data were collected is supported by DOE-BES, One of the researchers received support from the Royal Society.
The Carnegie Institution for Science (carnegiescience.edu) is a private, nonprofit organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., with six research departments throughout the U.S. Since its founding in 1902, the Carnegie Institution has been a pioneering force in basic scientific research. Carnegie scientists are leaders in plant biology, developmental biology, astronomy, materials science, global ecology, and Earth and planetary science.
Malcolm Guthrie | EurekAlert!
Further Improvement of Qubit Lifetime for Quantum Computers
09.12.2016 | Forschungszentrum Jülich
Electron highway inside crystal
09.12.2016 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.
Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
09.12.2016 | Life Sciences
09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation
09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine