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Press Release 08-011

Lithium and Beryllium No Longer "Lack Chemistry"

Scientists predict antisocial metals will bond under high-pressure conditions

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Interaction of lithium and beryllium under high density and pressure.

At standard atmospheric or ambient pressure, the lithium beryllium (LiBe) alloy is unstable. However, at high density and at relatively high pressure, the predicted alloy stabilizes. As the atoms are squeezed in tightly, lithium's ionic cores (the larger of the two) begin to overlap. This creates a sort of "wall" that forces the outer (valence) electrons out of the lithium layer, and over to the beryllium layer. It is there that the electrons form a curious two-dimensional gas. In contrast, electrons in most metals bounce about quite freely in a three-dimensional fashion.

Credit: Zina Deretsky, National Science Foundation


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Under high pressure, four lithium beryllium alloys are predicted.

Lithium (Li) and beryllium (Be) form no compounds under normal atmospheric pressure. But under high pressure at least four ordered alloys of these elements are predicted. The bottom left structure is the most unexpected predicted alloy and may have potential for superconductivity.

Credit: Ji Feng, Richard G. Hennig, N.W. Ashcroft, and Roald Hoffmann


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