Letters to Nature

Nature 431, 669-672 (7 October 2004) | doi:10.1038/nature02968; Received 27 April 2004; Accepted 25 August 2004

A quantum fluid of metallic hydrogen suggested by first-principles calculations

Stanimir A. Bonev1, Eric Schwegler1, Tadashi Ogitsu1 & Giulia Galli1

  1. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, University of California, Livermore, California 94550, USA

Correspondence to: Stanimir A. Bonev1 Email: bonev1@llnl.gov

It is generally assumed1, 2, 3 that solid hydrogen will transform into a metallic alkali-like crystal at sufficiently high pressure. However, some theoretical models4, 5 have also suggested that compressed hydrogen may form an unusual two-component (protons and electrons) metallic fluid at low temperature, or possibly even a zero-temperature liquid ground state. The existence of these new states of matter is conditional on the presence of a maximum in the melting temperature versus pressure curve (the 'melt line'). Previous measurements6, 7, 8 of the hydrogen melt line up to pressures of 44 GPa have led to controversial conclusions regarding the existence of this maximum. Here we report ab initio calculations that establish the melt line up to 200 GPa. We predict that subtle changes in the intermolecular interactions lead to a decline of the melt line above 90 GPa. The implication is that as solid molecular hydrogen is compressed, it transforms into a low-temperature quantum fluid before becoming a monatomic crystal. The emerging low-temperature phase diagram of hydrogen and its isotopes bears analogies with the familiar phases of 3He and 4He (the only known zero-temperature liquids), but the long-range Coulomb interactions and the large component mass ratio present in hydrogen would result in dramatically different properties9.

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