The 2,010th Meeting of the Society

March 19, 1993

The Quest of Metallic Hydrogen

Ho-Kwang Mao

Geophysical Laboratory, Carnegie Institution of Washington

About the Lecture

Hydrogen is the simplest of atoms and the most abundant element in the universe, and yet in some respects, it remains an oddity whose fundamental properties are still not fully understood. At ordinary conditions, hydrogen is a tenuous gas, yet theoreticians have predicted that if the gas were squeezed tightly enough, it should turn into a shiny metal. The metallic hydrogen, being a unique "quantum metal," may provide us very fundamental information in physics. It is even conceivable that metallic hydrogen might have practical uses ranging from being a high-temperature superconductor to a high-efficiency fusion fuel. The quest for this remarkable transformation is carried out experimentally with diamond cells. Many interesting phenomena begin to unveil.

About the Speaker

Ho-kwang Mao received his Ph.D from the University of Rochester in 1968, became a Postdoctoral fellow at the Geophysical Laboratory that year, and later became a Staff Geophysicist. With P. M. Bell in 1976, he first reached 1 megabar static pressure, an advancement that doubled the previous pressure limit. In the last 25 years, his research includes pioneering and continuing work in the development of ultrahigh pressure technology and in the application of the technology to physics, chemistry, material sciences, geophysics, geochemistry, and planetary sciences.