Matter takes many forms, but most of us are familiar with the three basic states: solid, liquid, and gas. Now, for the first time, scientists have discovered that it is possible that matter exists in two of these states at the same time.
Specifically, metallic potbadium can be a solid and a liquid simultaneously, if you treat it that way. Simply apply extreme pressure and extreme temperature and go! You have a serving of potbadium that is both solid and melted.
"It would be like holding a sponge full of water that begins to drip, except that the sponge is also made of water," physicist Andreas Hermann of the University of Edinburgh told Adam Mann. National Geographic.
Potbadium is quite simple. It has a basic crystal network structure and clean in its solid form. But when subjected to extreme conditions, strange things can happen to simple metals.
We know, for example, that the sodium-conducting metal becomes a high-pressure insulator. Lithium becomes a superconductor at high pressure and low temperature.
(McBride et al., Phys. Rev. B, 2015)
Previous experiments with potbadium at high pressure showed that its atoms are arranged in a complex arrangement: five tubes of atoms in a square formation, four in the corners and one in the center; and four chains of atoms linked together.
When heat is applied, the chains disappear; the researchers called this the "chain fusion transition," which is thought to occur when potbadium chains pbad from an ordered to a disordered state.
To try to find out why this happened, in the latest study, researchers used powerful computer simulations to observe the behavior of about 20,000 potbadium atoms in extreme conditions.
When the pressure and temperature are high enough (around 2 to 4 gigapascals), the potbadium atoms are organized into interconnected chains and networks.
The chemical interactions between the atoms in the network are strong, so they remain as an ordered solid when a temperature between 400 and 800 degrees Kelvin is applied. But meanwhile, the chains merge into a disordered liquid state.
The team is calling this new state the "chain-fused phase", and believes that it can exist in a wide range of materials, including sodium and bismuth, under the right conditions, which probably vary from the conditions required to induce the state. in potbadium
"Potbadium is one of the simplest metals we know, but if you squeeze it, it forms very complicated structures," Hermann said.
"We have shown that this unusual but stable state is partly solid and partly liquid, and recreate this unusual state in other materials could have all kinds of applications."
The investigation will be published in PNAS.