Physics

Extreme pressure reveals new phenomenon in atomic nuclei

Extreme pressure reveals new p...
Both the outer "valence" electrons and inner-core electrons of atomic nuclei behave unexpectedly under extreme pressure, which suggests there may be as-yet-undiscovered states of matter
Both the outer "valence" electrons and inner-core electrons of atomic nuclei behave unexpectedly under extreme pressure, which suggests there may be as-yet-undiscovered states of matter
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Project lead Igor Abrikosov and study co-author Marcus Ekholm discuss their discovery
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Project lead Igor Abrikosov and study co-author Marcus Ekholm discuss their discovery
Both the outer "valence" electrons and inner-core electrons of atomic nuclei behave unexpectedly under extreme pressure, which suggests there may be as-yet-undiscovered states of matter
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Both the outer "valence" electrons and inner-core electrons of atomic nuclei behave unexpectedly under extreme pressure, which suggests there may be as-yet-undiscovered states of matter

Scientists have long believed that while an atom's outer electrons are highly mobile and often behave somewhat chaotically, the inner electrons close to the nucleus are stable. They move steadily around the nucleus and stay out of each other's way. But new research reveals that if the pressure is really extreme, like double that found at the center of the Earth, the innermost electrons of an atom change their behavior.

The international team of researchers that observed this anomalous, unexpected phenomenon managed to put a metal called osmium, which is almost the densest of all known metals and almost as incompressible as diamond, under static pressure of over 770 gigapascals. That's more than twice as high as the pressure at the center of the Earth and 7.7 million times higher than the mean atmospheric pressure at the sea level.

The scientists were able to do this thanks to a device called a diamond anvil cell, which can put sub-millimeter-sized materials under pressure comparable to that which creates diamonds. The portion of the research team from Bayreuth University in Germany developed synthetic diamonds that could fit between two ordinary diamonds and on each side of the osmium crystal. These synthetic diamonds reduced the area in which the osmium could fit, thereby increasing the pressure to new extremes.

Osmium retained its hexagonal close-packed structure when extremely compressed, but both the inner-core and outer electrons behaved unexpectedly. Despite the extreme pressure, the outer, or valence, electrons behaved as normal, while the electrons in the atomic nuclei – which are normally predictable and tightly-bound to their nuclei – began to interact with one other. In other words, extreme compression changes the nature of core electrons.

"The phenomenon means that we can start searching for brand new states of matter," said project lead Igor Abrikosov. "We're really delighted, and it's exciting as it opens up a whole box of new questions for future research."

A paper describing the research was published in the journal Nature.

Source: Linköping University

14 comments
S Michael
So, lets get this straight. Let's spend billions of money, buying toys for these so called scientist to play with their toys; and they produce nothing, except "We're really delighted, and it's exciting as it opens up a whole box of new questions for future research." In other words.. NOTHING. How about this. PRODUCE something that will benefit mankind in the next year or two or we will stop your funding and you can go stand in the unemployment line with your brainy resume for a job to dig ditches. What BS. Research is turning out to be full employment for over educated elitist that produce NOTHING.
mach37
S Michael, you sound like a time traveler from the Middle Ages: If it isn't something you can use next Monday it is not worth thinking about.
jochair
I aqm waiting for results, might be interesting, at pressures like inside the sun or Jupiter.
4Freedom
This could lead to something quite interesting. Let them keep going and see what happens.
DH8
"So, lets get this straight. Let's spend billions of money, buying toys for these so called scientist to play with their toys; and they produce nothing, except "We're really delighted, and it's exciting as it opens up a whole box of new questions for future research." In other words.. NOTHING. How about this. PRODUCE something that will benefit mankind in the next year or two or we will stop your funding and you can go stand in the unemployment line with your brainy resume for a job to dig ditches. What BS. Research is turning out to be full employment for over educated elitist that produce NOTHING." - S- Michael 2015 Says the person who is posting on a computer, no doubt has used penicillin and makes use of NUMEROUS inventions that began just like these findings.
ChrisCarlyle
Yup. How do you think progress is made by playing with outdated cheap toys in the garage?
Douglas Bennett Rogers
The densest material produced in the lab is in the National Ignition Facility targets (about 13x lead). These are in a different regime, as they are at many millions of degrees as last only picoseconds.
Fretting Freddy the Ferret pressing the Fret
The frontier of material science dealing with extreme pressures and temperatures is still much at its infancy. I can't wait to learn more from this field of science. We could learn more about the state of matter inside planets like Neptunus, Uranus, and the stuff Earth's core is made for example.
Phdintheory
S Michael, I agree with you regardless of the snarky little remark that DH8 made. (Not to mention the fact that neither computers nor Penicillin were discovered by physicists.) What's most infuriating is how they make these comments sound as if they know exactly what's going on inside of a particle. Then act as if these discoveries support the standard model and are simply little quirks or mechanisms resultant of a natural progression of the scientific method. The arrogance these individuals exhibit is even more maddening. When they pontificate from on high theory's they know to be incorrect, it makes me want to tear my hair out. Every day more and more evidence (including the discovery mentioned in the story) demonstrate that the Standard Model is wrong. And every day, more and more of these little prigs are resigned to accept it. "Show me the math!" they sneer when challenged by a new hypothesis or theory. But the fact is that in all of the years since the Standard Model was first presented, no one has been able to mathematically join the macroscopic world to quantum mechanics at any level. So I agree with you S Michael. Be damned the little darlings of acedemia. Deny their funding and support true scientific research.
Don Duncan
While I am against public money, e.g., taxation (theft) I support this research. If the majority agree to be taxed, then this is good use of their money. Going to the moon was a waste of money. Much of NASA's spending was really for weapons research (rocketry & satellites).