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Researchers squeeze hydrogen into 'metallic state'
by Brooks Hays
Edinburgh, Scotland (UPI) Jan 8, 2016

Newly developed 'metallic glue' could replace welding
Boston (UPI) Jan 8, 2016 - Researchers at Northeastern University -- a professor and two PhD students -- have invented a new sealant capable of creating a metal bond. They're calling it "metallic glue."

The glue can be used at room temperature, and its activation doesn't require high pressure.

"It's like welding or sol­dering but without the heat," lead researcher Hanchen Huang, a pro­fessor of mechanical and industrial engineering, explained in a press release.

Huang and his students-turned-research partners created the metallic glue using metallic nanorods. The rods are tiny metallic cores coated on one side with indium and on the other with gallium. The nanorods are situated along a substrate like interlocking teeth.

When gallium teeth meet indium teeth, they become liquid. But the metal core quickly turns that liquid back into a solid, creating a metal bond capable of conducting heat and electricity.

Unlike standard glue, the metallic glue maintains its integrity at high temperatures and pressures. It also possesses superior conductivity and is less prone to air and gas leaks.

Huang and his colleagues say the glue could be used to attach a CPU to a circuit board or a filament to a light bulb. The material achieves bonds similar to those created via soldering or welding, but without the heat that can be dangerous to workers and potentially damage the product.

"The metallic glue has mul­tiple appli­ca­tions, many of them in the elec­tronics industry," Huang said. "As a heat con­ductor, it may replace the thermal grease cur­rently being used, and as an elec­trical con­ductor, it may replace today's sol­ders. Par­tic­ular prod­ucts include solar cells, pipe fit­tings, and com­po­nents for com­puters and mobile devices."

Researchers described their new material -- which they've spun off into a startup company, MesoGlue -- in the journal Advanced Materials and Processes.

Inside laboratories in Scotland, hydrogen has assumed a strange new state -- one only found naturally inside gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn.

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh pushed the element into the novel phase by subjecting it to intense pressure, 3.25 million times the pressure of Earth's atmosphere. Researchers call it the "metallic state."

Researchers described the feat in a new study, published this week in the journal Nature.

Hydrogen's metallic state was first theorized 80 years ago, but for the last four decades, physicists have tried and failed to prove its existence. Researchers were finally able to achieve the proper pressure using two diamonds.

"The past 30 years of the high-pressure research saw numerous claims of the creation of metallic hydrogen in the laboratory, but all these claims were later disproved," lead researcher Eugene Gregoryanz, an astrophysicist at Edinburgh, said in a press release. "Our study presents the first experimental evidence that hydrogen could behave as predicted, although at much higher pressures than previously thought."

The record-breaking pressure forced the hydrogen into a new solid phase -- dubbed phase V -- with unusual qualities. The element's atoms began to separate and each atom's electrons started behaving like the electrons of metal atoms.

But Gregoryanz and his colleagues say they've only just breached the low end of the phase, and that more pressure is needed to push hydrogen into a purer metallic state. He says their work will continue toward this end.

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