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Study: Lithium, beryllium may be bondable

Credit: Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation.
by Staff Writers
Ithaca, N.Y. (UPI) Jan 29, 2008
U.S. scientists have determined "anti-social" metals such as lithium and beryllium will bond, forming stable alloys at high density and pressure.

Lithium and beryllium, the lightest known metals, don't bind under normal atmospheric or ambient pressure. But a team of Cornell University scientists predicted they will bond under higher levels of pressure and form stable alloys that might be capable of superconductivity.

Of the four stable alloys predicted by the scientists' computational study, the alloy with the ratio of one lithium atom to one beryllium atom showed the greatest potential for superconducting applications, the researchers said. They noted a most unexpected finding in the study was the predicted existence of two-dimensional electron gas layers within a tightly compressed three-dimensional LiBe compound.

"It's like taking a nice layer cake, squeezing the hell out of it, and lo and behold, out of what would be expected to be a jumbled-up mess, there emerges a neat hazelnut cream layer," said study co-author Professor Roald Hoffmann who conducted the study with Professor Emeritus Neil Ashcroft.

The study that included Assistant Professor Richard Hennig and researcher Ji Feng appears in the journal Nature.

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