After having carried out many experiments on potassium, Scottish researchers have confirmed they have obtained an new stable state of matter. This element can behave both as liquid and solid when submitted to extreme conditions.
State of Matter: Both solid and liquid
In physics there are four state of matter forms including, solid, liquid, gas and plasma. Liquid and solid states of matter are separated due to microscopic differences in the structure of the matter. For example within a solid material there are intense chemical bonds, whereas the bonds are much weaker for a liquid state of matter. This is why elements can move relative to each other without breaking their bonds.
However a statement from the University of Edinburgh, published on 9 April 2019 revealed the discovery of a new state of matter! Researchers explained that there is also a hybrid state in which the material is both solid and liquid at the same time.
“Potassium is one of the simplest metals we know, yet if you squeeze it, it forms very complicated structures. We have shown that this unusual but stable state is part solid and part liquid. Recreating this unusual state in other materials could have all kinds of applications,” explained Andreas Hermann, lead author of the study. .
An enigma finally resolved
When a simple metal like potassium (see main image) is submitted to very high temperatures and pressures, the atoms form two interlinked solid lattice structures which are both liquid and solid. These networks are paradoxically different but also linked. Until now, no one could say whether this stage was a state of matter in itself as it could simply be a transition state between two states.
Scottish researchers wanting overcome this enigma, stated that they used a network artificial neurons to reproduce many experiments. These tests included no less than 20,000 potassium atoms designed to simulate the behaviour of particles at incredible pressures. These pressures were up to 40,000 more intense than usual!
The results of the study confirm that potassium remains stable in a “chain-melted state”, with a hybrid organisation. This state involves crystals (strong bonds) linked together by melted chains allowing it to reach a liquid state. According to the leaders of the study, this new state of matter could also concern half a dozen other elements, including sodium and bismuth.