Metallic hydrogen

Class, Physics, Science, Universe
The interior of Jupiter

The interior of Jupiter is believed to contain a large quantity of liquid metallic hydrogen, depicted here in grey.

In learning about the interiors, we’ve heard a lot about metallic hydrogen. To me, it was a confusing idea, simply because I only really hear about hydrogen in the context of being a gas or being a compound such as water or methane. Furthermore, it was not clear what phase metallic hydrogen would be, since usually “metallic” is not actually a phase, just a set of properties.

Dr. Grundstrom told us that the main thing we need to know about metallic hydrogen is that it is conductive, and in fact this is the primary characteristic in its definition. As it turns out, metallic hydrogen has never been created experimentally on Earth, because it requires more pressure than we currently know how to create. However, it is theorized that metallic hydrogen takes a liquid form, rather than the solid one might expect at such pressures. As we discussed in class, several celestial bodies—most notably, Jupiter and Saturn—are believed to be full of liquid metallic hydrogen, thanks to the huge amount of gravity produced by the mass of those objects.


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