Recently I've been looking into Metallic Hydrogen as a fuel for the vehicles of my fictional future world. The only issue is that I'm uncertain if the blasted stuff is metastable. And while I know that no one knows for sure if it is, I would like some sources on some of the latest findings for me to judge the risk of whether or not of including it.

Thank you.

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    $\begingroup$ S. N. Burmistrov and L. B. Dubovskii, "On the lifetime of metastable metallic hydrogen", in Low Temperature Physics, Volume 43, Issue 10, 2017: "The metallic state is expected to be in the metastable long-lived state down to about 10–20 GPa and decays instantly at the lower pressures." For reference, 10 to 20 GPa is 100,000 to 200,000 atmospheres; you will need some very sturdy fuel tanks... $\endgroup$ – AlexP Mar 17 '20 at 23:22
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    $\begingroup$ Offtopic but interesting, it's easier to get a solution of electrons, that you can observe with naked eyes. $\endgroup$ – Adrian Colomitchi Mar 18 '20 at 0:54
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    $\begingroup$ It sounds to me like you're asking about the real world, not building a new one. I'm not sure where the line is exactly (and suspect it is fuzzy here) but this question sounds better suited for physics.SE $\endgroup$ – Lio Elbammalf Mar 18 '20 at 13:04
  • $\begingroup$ Good point, going to correct that. $\endgroup$ – Seraphim Mar 18 '20 at 17:47
  • $\begingroup$ just my $0.02 - the "Hard Science" tag on this substance is going to be very challenging... $\endgroup$ – Joe Mar 18 '20 at 20:29

Full disclosure - everything factual here I'm about to write comes from the same paper that AlexP quoted in the comments, I'm just going to go over a bit more things. The paper is here if you want to look at it.

Metallic Hydrogen is metastable

Once created, as long as it's kept in the same conditions as it was created in, it's expected to be metastable. However, this may prove tricky, as it requires around 500 GPa to create, or about 5,000,000 atmospheres of pressure. As in, not that keeping it is tricky but making the stuff is. It's unclear if we've actually created the stuff, by the way, a lab claimed that they made it, however, due to the nature of the small sample and the fact that it was between diamond anvils, they were unable to perform conclusive tests. But, given the insane difficulty in making the stuff, there is what to believe that it's going to be metastable at the pressure it was created in.

And, as the paper states, dropping the pressure even to about 10 GPa, or a mere 100,000 atmospheres, is about the least you can do without the metallic hydrogen decaying. To give you another comparison, this is roughly the pressure that diamonds form at. I wouldn't actually worry about this part, though. Metallic hydrogen, at least by our current means, is impossible to mass produce. If we develop the means to mass produce it, that means we've develop specialized equipment to handle creating something at that kind of pressure, so it's very conceivable that we'll have equivalent level fuel tanks to hold it. (If you're wondering, diamond fuel tanks can easily withstand that much pressure, but that's currently impractical, for various reasons.)


It is not meta-stable in ambient conditions, but since you're writing about a fictional world, you could add some form of futuristic containment chamber that would stabilize it. For the thrusters, you can add Cesium to the metallic hydrogen and use a magnetic field to prevent the exhaust from coming into contact with the nozzle. This thruster, would only be usable in a vacuum as if you were ti use in the atmosphere, the super-heated exhaust fumes would cause the air to combust, thus melting the nozzle. If you want more info, I suggest you look at:


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