Conventional chemistry generally holds that only electrons in the outermost energy “shell” of an atom (the ‘valence electrons’) interact with other atoms to form chemical bonds. However, recent supercomputer calculations of the behavior of lithium atoms at sufficiently high pressures and temperatures indicate that chemical structures involving inner, non-valence electrons may be possible, according to a ScienceNews report:

In an upcoming Physical Review Letters, Stanimir Bonev of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada and his collaborators describe how they used a supercomputer to calculate the behavior of lithium at pressures above 1.5 million atmospheres and temperatures as high as 3,000 kelvins (about 2,700° Celsius).

What they saw, they say, is a “unique state of matter,” the first case in which chemical structure is not determined solely by the outer electrons.

I don’t care for the use of the word “dogma” in the article, but the actual result at issue is definitely interesting, even if it is only a computer simulation at this point.


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