Scientists find that potassium can be a liquid and a solid at the same time.

Most people know that matter can be a solid, a liquid, or a gas. Now, physicists have discovered that several unusual states can exist under extreme temperature and pressure conditions.

What is potassium?

Potassium is the second densest metal after lithium. It is a soft solid with a low melting point and can be easily cut with a knife. Freshly cut potassium is silvery in appearance, but it immediately turns gray on exposure to air.

Back to the study.

The scientists ran potassium atoms through a computer program and found that the element can act like both a solid and a liquid at the same time. If you found a piece of this type of potassium and looked at it under a microscope, it would probably look like a solid block leaking melted potassium. Eventually, all of it would dissolve away.”It would be like holding a sponge filled with water that starts dripping out, except the sponge is also made of water,” says study co-author Andreas Hermann.

If you look under a microscope potassium and metals similar to it, In a solid bar, potassium atoms link up into orderly rows. Heat and electricity pass through the rows easily. For a long time, researchers believed that they could easily predict what might occur to such structures under pressure.

Around 15 years ago, scientists discovered something unusual about sodium. Sodium is a solid with similar properties to potassium. The scientists found that sodium did something weird when put under extreme pressure. They put sodium under 20,000 times the pressure present at the Earth’s surface. It changed from a silvery block into a clear material. Then scientists found out that electricity couldn’t flow through it. By studying the sodium with X-rays, scientists could see that its atoms had adopted a interesting crystal formation instead of a simple one.

Potassium has also been studied carefully by scientists. Under high pressure, its atoms arrange themselves into an complex formation. Instead of rows, the atoms form five tubes. The tubes form a shape sort of like the letter X , with four long chains.

Proving the findings.

The computer programs put the atoms through high pressure and heat. It confirmed that at between about 20,000 and 40,000 times atmospheric pressure and or 260 to 980 degrees Fahrenheit, the potassium entered what is called a chain-melted state. The chains between the X’s dissolved into liquid, while the remaining potassium crystals stayed solid. In other words, some atoms entered a liquid state while their immediate neighbors remained in a solid state. The substance acted like both phases. 

This proves that potassium can act as a liquid and a solid at the same time.

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