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Title: Structural complexity in ramp-compressed sodium to 480 GPa
Abstract The properties of all materials at one atmosphere of pressure are controlled by the configurations of their valence electrons. At extreme pressures, neighboring atoms approach so close that core-electron orbitals overlap, and theory predicts the emergence of unusual quantum behavior. We ramp-compress monovalent elemental sodium, a prototypical metal at ambient conditions, to nearly 500 GPa (5 million atmospheres). The 7-fold increase of density brings the interatomic distance to 1.74 Å well within the initial 2.03 Å of the Na + ionic diameter, and squeezes the valence electrons into the interstitial voids suggesting the formation of an electride phase. The laser-driven compression results in pressure-driven melting and recrystallization in a billionth of a second. In situ x-ray diffraction reveals a series of unexpected phase transitions upon recrystallization, and optical reflectivity measurements show a precipitous decrease throughout the liquid and solid phases, where the liquid is predicted to have electronic localization. These data reveal the presence of a rich, temperature-driven polymorphism where core electron overlap is thought to stabilize the formation of peculiar electride states.
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Nature Communications
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National Science Foundation
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