Scientists Transform Purified Water Into Golden Metal

(Image credit: HZB)

In a mind-bending experiment, scientists transformed purified water into metal for a few fleeting seconds, thus allowing the liquid to conduct electricity.

Unfiltered water can already conduct electricity — meaning negatively charged electrons can easily flow between its molecules — because unfiltered water contains salts, according to a statement about the new study. However, purified water contains only water molecules, whose outermost electrons remain bound to their designated atoms, and thus, they can’t flow freely through the water.

Theoretically, if one applied enough pressure to pure water, the water molecules would squish together and their valence shells, the outermost ring of electrons surrounding each atom, would overlap. This would allow the electrons to flow freely between each molecule and would technically turn the water into a metal.

The problem is that, to squash water into this metallic state, one would need 15 million atmospheres of pressure (about 220 million psi), study author Pavel Jungwirth, a physical chemist at the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague, told Nature News & Comment. For this reason, geophysicists suspect that such water-turned-metal might exist in the cores of huge planets like JupiterNeptune and Uranus, according to Nature News.

But Jungwirth and his colleagues wondered whether they could turn water into metal through different means, without creating the ridiculous pressures found in Jupiter’s core. They decided to use alkali metals, which include elements like sodium and potassium and hold only one electron in their valence shells. Alkali metals tend to “donate” this electron to other atoms when forming chemical bonds, because the “loss” of that lone electron makes the alkali metal more stable.

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SOURCE: LiveScience, Nicoletta Lanese

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