Isaac Silvera: We are starting a new experiment on metallic hydrogen

Isaac Silvera
Isaac Silvera

Photo: New York Post

Professor Isaac Silvera and Doctor Ranga Dias from Harvard University announced in October 2016 about their success in creating metallic hydrogen. 

 “It is the first-ever sample of metallic hydrogen on Earth, so when you are looking at it, you are looking at something that has never existed before,” Isaac Silvera stated after their attempt of revolutionary breakthrough became known. The scientists tried to make metallic hydrogen by pressing liquid hydrogen between two diamonds at a temperature far below freezing.

Harvard Professor Isaac Silvera told in an exclusive interview to Mediamax about how he started his work on metallic hydrogen and the current stage of his research.

- Professor Silvera, you tried to make a revolutionary discovery, which scientists have dreamt of for more than 100 years. How long have you been engaged in creating metallic hydrogen and why did this direction attract you so much?

- I started about 45 years ago. I like challenging problems. At the time the prediction of the required pressure for creating metallic hydrogen was 25 GPa (pressure of 495 GPa is used during this experiment- Mediamax) and I thought that I could achieve such a pressure. It turned out to be much higher and more difficult to achieve.

- According to media, your team has not yet proved that the new metal is stable at normal pressures and temperatures. Has the sample been taken out of the equipment? If yes, is it possible to preserve the material and its properties?

- Not yet; we have no evidence positive or negative that the sample is metastable.

- Which stage is your research at currently? Have you tried to repeat your experiment? If yes, have you achieved success?

- We recently lost the sample; the diamonds broke when we shone low power laser beam into them. We are starting a new experiment.

- A number of scientists criticized you, saying that maybe you hurried to announce creation of metallic hydrogen. How would you respond to the criticism?

- We did not hurry. They suggest that the experiment should be repeated and I agree. But this is the first time that hydrogen has been compressed to this pressure and it may be hard to repeat. It could take a year or more, so we did not think we should wait to announce our success.

- How important is this discovery for you? What does it mean for you? In fact, you can become the scientist to provide humanity with so long expected metal, which can become the basis of progress in many spheres.

- Success in achieving a long sought goal is extremely exciting. It also opens up new avenues for further research and discovery that we are pursuing.

Marie Taryan talked to Isaac F. Silvera


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