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Observed metallization of hydrogen interpreted as a band structure effect


A recent experimental study of the metallization of hydrogen tracked the direct band gap and vibron frequency via infrared measurements up to ∼425 GPa (Loubeyreet al(2020Nature577631). Above this pressure, the direct gap has a discontinuous drop to below the minimum experimentally accessible energy (∼0.1 eV). The authors suggested that this observation is caused by a structural phase transition between theC2/c-24 molecular phase to another molecular phase such asCmca-12. Here, throughab initiocalculations of pressure dependent vibron frequency and direct band gap, we find that the experimental data is consistent with theC2/c-24 phase up to 425 GPa, and suggest that this consistency extends beyond that pressure. Specifically, we find that qualitative changes in the band structure of theC2/c-24 phase lead to a discontinuous drop of the direct band gap, which can explain the observed drop without a structural transition. This alternative scenario, which naturally explains the absence of hysteresis in the measurements, will hopefully motivate further experimental studies to ascertain the structure of the phase above the high pressure 'phase transition'.

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