Scientists have created what they called an “impossible” or “forbidden” compound which they claim seems to bend the rules of chemistry.
Researchers from the US, Russia, and China created the compound known as CeH9 or cerium superhydride which exhibits a quality known as superconductivity.
Superconductive materials are capable of conducting an electric current without any resistance, making them perfectly efficient at retaining the energy passing through them without any leaking away.
These materials are used in particle accelerators and MRI scanners and could be used to power electric vehicles and for efficient electric power transmission lines.
But there are critical limits on where superconductive material can be used today, which means uses such as for efficient power transmission are unachievable.
The best superconductors we know of only work at very low temperatures (minus 138 degrees Celsius) and extremely high pressures (two million atmospheres).
But a new compound created at the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT) could change that, according to the paper published in the journal Nature Communications.
CeH9 was synthesised when the scientists placed a microscopic sample of the metal cerium into a diamond anvil cell, a device made of two flat diamonds which is used to squash material with enormous pressures.
The cerium was compressed alongside a chemical which releases hydrogen when heated with a laser, and the scientists found that as the pressure in the diamond anvil grew, the cerium hydrides were forming with more and more hydrogen.
This meant the cerium atoms were becoming encased by more and more hydrogen atoms, with the final form they found, CeH9, forming a crystal lattice in which cages of 29 hydrogen atoms were containing the cerium.
CeH9 is unlike other superconductive materials because it does not need to trade off temperature for pressure according to the researchers.
“While cerium superhydride only becomes superconductive once cooled to -200 degrees Celsius, this material is remarkable in that it is stable at a pressure of 1 million atmospheres,” explained Ivan Kruglov.
Dr Kruglov, a researcher at MIPT and Dukhov Research Institute of Automatics, noted that this pressure was significantly less than what “the previously synthesized sulfur and lanthanum superhydrides require”.
“On the other hand, uranium superhydride is stable at an even lower pressure, but needs considerably more cooling,” Dr Kruglov said, explaining the trade-off.