Today’s Solutions: November 30, 2021

Earlier this year, a research team from the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague looked to achieve something science never has before: making metallic water here on Earth.

Water is normally bound to other water molecules in a liquid state, but when a high enough pressure is applied, these water molecules can be squished together. This causes them to overlap and their physical properties to change due to electrons being forced to exchange between them. The outcome… metallic water!

Observing this phenomenon requires a pressure of 15 million times more than our atmosphere, something out of technological reach. In giant planets such as Neptune, Uranus, and Jupiter, it is thought this conversion is happening at their cores. To bypass this issue, scientists came up with the genius idea of adding another component into the mix: alkali metals like potassium and sodium. These have the ability to donate an electron to the water molecules, the missing ingredient needed to push forward this reaction.

Normally alkali metals combined with water are extremely explosive, making this method risky. They were able to avoid this by introducing only a small amount of water vapor to the metal droplets.

The team witnessed the transition to a shiny golden yellow color with their eyes, using specialised techniques to confirm this was in fact metal. A groundbreaking moment as is the first time metallic water has been achieved on Earth. In a comment to Nature News, study author Pavel Jungwirth said, “It was amazing, like [when] you discover a new element.”

Being able to simulate this occurrence in a laboratory could lead to a number of potential applications, deepening our understanding of chemistry, geology, and material science.

Source study: NatureSpectroscopic evidence for a gold-coloured metallic water solution

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