Hydrogen-to-metal breakthrough questioned

Claims by two Harvard researchers that they performed a modern-day alchemy miracle by changing Hydrogen gas to metal have been called into question.

The two researchers, Isaac Silvera, Thomas D. Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences, and post-doctoral fellow Ranga Dias, claim to have created metallic hydrogen. They say they were able to do it by compressing hydrogen gas in a diamond anvil and then solidifying it at very low temperatures. At the the same time, they slowly increased the pressure on the anvil.

They claim that at 4 million atmospheres, greater than the pressure at the center of the Earth, the transparent hydrogen turned black. It then became metallic at 4.95 million atmospheres, where it reflected 90% of the light scientists shone at it.

Silvera had been working at this problem for the last 45 years and the discovery, should it be true, has the potential to revolutionize technology and space travel.

Experts, however, have called the findings into question.

One aspect other scientists are questioning is the lack of physical evidence. Silvera and Dias have not yet been able to show any physical evidence of the metal. It is still stuck to the anvil and they fear that removing what they do have may cause it to disappear entirely.

Silvera has said that one can see by the shine observed through a microscope that what is seen is a metal. Other experts say that the shine can be explained by the aluminium oxide that coats the diamonds on the anvil. It is known to become shiny under high pressure.

Silvera and Dias’ procedures have also been called into question. Experts have questioned the lack of consistency in taking detailed measurements throughout the process, as well as their decision to publish their results before removing the material from the anvil.