In Greek mythology, King Midas had the ability to turn everything he touched into gold. Meanwhile, in the real world, some scientists has it too. It is not quite the Midas touch, but more like metal touch and not any material; but with purified water.
Regular water contains salts which makes it conductive. But distilled water, on the other, is nearly perfect as an insulator. This science fact allows the scientists at Czech Academy of Sciences, in collaboration with international scientists from 11 research institutions, to turn purified water into metal, albeit for just a few seconds, and thereby enabling the distilled liquid to conduct electricity.
“To create a conduction band with freely moving electrons, water would have to be pressurised to such an extent that the orbitals of the outer electrons overlap.”
Sounds easy enough, except that it would require enormous amount of pressure. We are talking about 15 million atmospheres of pressure or about 220 million psi. It is literally an out-of-this-world pressure that could only be found in the core of larger planets such as Jupiter.
To put things in perspective, the deepest point in the ocean, Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench which 11,000 meters (36,089 feet) deep, is 15,750 psi. It is indeed a crushing pressure, but minuscule at best when compared to the core of Jupiter.
The ridiculous amount pressure is, obviously, virtually not replicable here on Earth. However, the brilliant minds over at the Czech Academy of Sciences found an alternative: using alkali metals to release the outer electron of the aqueous solution and thereby revealing its metallic properties.
I don’t pretend to understand what’s the implication here. All we know that a new element has been discovered. You can learn more in a publication on Nature (Spectroscopic evident for a gold-coloured metallic water solution), and in the press release posted on EurekAlert! If those are too scientific for you grasp, Livescience’s Nicoletta has written a pretty concise article too, which I thought was more digestible.
Images: HZB [DE].