Scientists convert pure water into metal for the first time

Electrons from a droplet of sodium and potassium diffuse over a thin layer of water, giving it metallic properties and a golden glow – © Philip E. Mason / IOCB Prague

Using a very sophisticated experimental device, the researchers managed to grow a thin layer of golden metallic water on the surface of a drop of liquid metal.

First

Although it may sound surprising, water becomes an insulator when it is completely pure. On the other hand, tap water, because of the salts and impurities present in it, is a good conductor of electricity. Therefore, making pure water metallic or conductive has long been a major challenge for scientists.

With reference to work published in the journal natureA team of researchers from 11 institutions around the world has achieved this feat for the first time. done in installation Basi II, To Berlin, this breakthrough involved the coupling of water with an alkali metal, which is known to readily release electrons from the outer shells of its atoms.

Since alkali metals and water don’t mix well (the first mention can sparkle, ignite and even explode when dropped in water), the team created a thin aqueous film. With the metal cover performed the opposite operation.

Observation of formation of metallic water from a drop of sodium-potassium alloy. It gradually turns a golden hue as electrons and metal cations move across the surface of the water – © Philip E. Mason / IOCB Prague

Inside a vacuum chamber, a sodium-potassium alloy (Na-K), which exists in the liquid state at room temperature, is poured drop by drop through a nozzle. Water vapor was introduced into the chamber, creating an extremely thin skin on the surface of the metal droplet. The electrons and metallic cations then pass through Na–K into the water, forming a conductive metallic water.

“The silver drop of sodium-potassium is adorned with a golden hue”

« You can see the phase transition in metallic water with the naked eye “, telling Dr. Robert Cedella, one of the study’s authors. ” The silver sodium-potassium drop is adorned with a golden hue, which is very impressive. »

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To determine exactly what was happening, the scientists examined the short-lived metallic water using optical reflection spectroscopy and synchrotron X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, which confirmed the metallic phase.

« Our study not only suggests that metallic water may indeed have originated on Earth, but also characterizes the spectroscopic properties associated with its beautiful golden metallic luster. », conclusion sidel.

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About the Author: Tad Fisher

Prone to fits of apathy. Music specialist. Extreme food enthusiast. Amateur problem solver.

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