Atoms can exist as both solid and liquid in ‘new state’ discovered by scientists

Scientists examining potassium have discovered a new state of physical matter where atoms can exist as both solid and liquid at the same time.

The research is said to clear up whether there was a distinct state of matter or the atom structures represented a transition between two stages – whether solid, liquid or gas.

Tests were carried out on the “simple metal”, such as applying high pressures and temperatures, with powerful computer simulations used to study what was known as the chain-melted state.

Experts from the University of Edinburgh believe more than half a dozen other elements – including sodium and bismuth – are capable of existing in this new state.

Dr Andreas Hermann, of the university’s School of Physics and Astronomy, led the study which is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Recreating this unusual state in other materials could have all kinds of applications

He said: “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.”

The study was supported by the European Research Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and the work was carried out in collaboration with scientists from Xi’an Jiantong University in China.

- Press Association

More on this topic

The Earth's magnetic north pole is shifting rapidly – so what will happen to the northern lights?

Trinity College develops robot to battle loneliness in the elderly

Appliance of Science: What was the first ever living thing on Earth?

€230m funding for six SFI Research Centres announced

More in this Section

No nuclear talks unless US changes position, warns North Korea

Hundreds tie knot as same-sex marriage becomes legal in Taiwan

'She cannot govern': Jeremy Corbyn reacts to Theresa May's resignation

#Therexit: 'Honour of my life' - Theresa May to step down on June 7


Album review: Flying Lotus - Flamagra

Weekend Food: Darina Allen introduces you to some of her favourite Sri Lankan dishes

Life without Leanne: Mother of teenager who took her own life to tell daughter's story in new book

Motoring on: UCC gut-health expert looks forward to new challenges

More From The Irish Examiner