Modern Alchemy

What if WE have the Midas Touch?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Turning water into metal? Sounds like something from an alchemy book! PURE water is not metallic — because the molecule structure is too stable. But, with enough pressure, we could SQUEEZE water molecules to destabilize them. Presto! Metallic water! 

The hitch? This level of pressure is IMPOSSIBLE to achieve on Earth!

Fret not! Philip Mason from Czech Academy of Sciences and his international team PRESSED the issue. They dripped liquid metal made of sodium-potassium into a vacuum chamber filled with water vapor. As a drop forms, it gets covered in water. Normally, this metal EXPLODES in water. But the low pressure environment prevents the explosion! 

As the drops fell, the alchemists watched and waited for magic to happen.

And abra kadabra! The water turned GOLDEN and became metallic! For a few seconds, at least! The liquid metal released lots of electrons, disrupting the water’s structure. 

And turning water into GOLD, right here on Earth! 

Well, gold-colored metal anyway. Hey – bling is bling, right??

Reference: Mason, P. E., Schewe, H. C., Buttersack, T., Kostal, V., Vitek, M., McMullen, R. S., Ali, H., Trinter, F., Lee, C., Neumark, D. M., Thürmer, S., Seidel, R., Winter, B., Bradforth, S. E., & Jungwirth, P. (2021). Spectroscopic evidence for a gold-coloured metallic water solution. Nature, 595(7869), 673–676.