For 80 years, researchers theorized that hydrogen could transform into a metal. This year, scientists at Sandia National Laboratories finally proved it.
“The moment we got our first look at the data, we were very excited,” says Mike Desjarlais, the team’s lead theoretical physicist. “After the first several experiments, we had begun to wonder if we would ever see it.”
The findings change scientists’ understanding of how planets evolve. Because planets cool over time, temperature has long been used to calculate their age. But hydrogen metallization causes surface temps to rise, which could explain, for example, why Saturn is warmer than its age suggests.