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Einstein´s theory of relativity explains why mercury is liquid

Einstein´s theory of relativity explains why mercury is liquid

Einstein explains why mercury is liquidScientists  from New Zealand, France, and Germany have solved the old “mystery” why mercury is liquid at room temperature. The study, published in the journal Angewandte Chemie [1], used advanced computer models of theoretical chemistry, to  prove that the surprisingly low melting point is due to mercury’s special electron structure, something that can only be explained through Einstein’s special theory of relativity.

Researchers have long suspected that mercury’s peculiarities are rooted in the effects of the special theory of relativity, but they have not been able to prove it quantitatively until now.

Albert Einstein’s special theory of relativity describes the properties of very high-velocity matter, such the mercury atom. The electron structure of the mercury atom having 82 electrons differs from that of lighter atoms, where these effects play a lesser role.

The scientists built a computer model of the atomic structure of mercury with its nucleus and electrons. Using Monte Carlo simulations and numerical methods, the research team studied the interaction of mercury atoms at various pressures and temperatures.

For a long time computers simply weren’t powerful enough for these types of simulations and calculations and did not provide sufficient computing capacity.

mercury-simulationThe properties of mercury have long puzzled theoretical chemists. Its aggregate state under normal conditions is always liquid, unlike other metals such as zinc, gold or copper, which need a lot of heat to melt”, says a press release of the University of Heidelberg.

[1] F. Calvo, E. Pahl, M. Wormit, P. Schwerdtfeger: Evidence for Low-Temperature Melting of Mercury owing to Relativity, Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2013, 52, 7583-7585 (English version)

Christian Schumacher

Dr. Christian Schumacher is the founder and managing director of StepChange Innovations GmbH, a technology development and consulting firm based in Germany. He has more than 20 years of experience in the chemical industry with global players such as Hoechst AG and DyStar Textilfarben GmbH as head of R&D, senior regional business manager Asia Pacific, head of e-commerce, head of marketing services, new product development manager and R&D chemist.

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