Metallic Hydrogen
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Basic Information

Metallic Hydrogen As Fuel

When placed under extreme pressure, it's possible for hydrogen to become compressed into a solid metal. It's also theoretically possible that it would retain this state when the pressure was removed, as long as the temperature was moderated. If this proves to be true, it's possible that this could be burnt as fuel, in which case it would release a lot more energy than mere gaseous hydrogen. It is estimated to have more than triple the specific impulse of our current best rocket fuel. It is likely it would also produce normal hydrogen gas while burning, which could also be burned in the process (or in an auxilliary engine). If all this holds to be true, then Metallic Hydrogen Fuel may prove to be a great power source for spacecraft and stardrives. It may be something we could mine or collect from Jupiter or other gas giant or ice giant planets.

Metallic Hydrogen as Superconductor

It is also possible that Metallic Hydrogen may be a superconductor that operates at room temperature. Such a room-temperature superconductor would have amazing applications in electronics, computing, and technologies that employ magnets or standard very-low-temperature superconductors. Think better and faster bullet trains or maybe even forcefield technology. Honestly, you can probably hand wave whatever scientific principles and breakthroughs you need to make Metallic Hydrogen function as the applied phlebotinum of your speculative fiction setting.

Sources

Bibliography
1. New Scientist article - click the right arrow on the picture four times to get to the 5th entry, which is on Metallic Hydrogen Fuel.
2. Pocket Worthy article - The title of the original article is: "'Holy Grail' Metallic Hydrogen Is Going To Change Everything" and it says that scientists have recently managed to make some Metallic Hydrogen in a lab for the first time ever

Game and Story Use

  • Using solid blocks of frozen metal in an engine has a lot of cool imagery you could use for your game or story.
    • Frost forms on your engines, and there's a danger of machines freezing up if left idle.
    • Fuel comes in rods or bricks or refrigerated tanks. It may have to be shaved, chipped or ground up by a machine that then feeds it into the engines.
      • Since it's metal, it might also be possible to draw it into wire. Then you might even have fuel on big spools that are fed into the engines gradually.
    • The fuel is probably mined and transported by robot so no one has to touch it or be subjected to the extreme pressure where it's made.
    • If something starts to melt or defrost the fuel you may have to jettison or vent the gas so it doesn't rupture the feed lines.
  • Alternately, it's also theoretically possible that once compressed into metal, the metallic hydrogen fuel is stable and solid at room temperature. It may require some sort of primer or ignition to start it converting to gas or begin the engine reaction.
  • If there are other unexpected properties, it may be a form of applied phlebotinum.
  • Mining operations on gas giant and ice giant planets could make for isolated and chilling settings, great for sci-fi/horror blends.
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