This light-weight high-energy density material would revolutionize rocketry, allowing single-stage rockets to enter orbit and chemically fueled rockets to explore our solar system. To transform solid molecular hydrogen to metallic hydrogen requires extreme high pressures, but has not yet been accomplished in the laboratory. In the proposed new approach electrons will be injected into solid hydrogen with the objective of lowering the critical pressure for transformation. If successful the metastability properties of hydrogen will be studied. This new approach may scale down the pressures needed to produce this potentially revolutionary rocket propellant.
Isaac Silvera is heading up the NIAC project and also co-wrote a 2010 paper on metallic hydrogen rockets.
Wigner and Huntington first predicted that pressures of order 25 GPa were required for the transition of solid molecular hydrogen to the atomic metallic phase. Later it was predicted that metallic hydrogen might be a metastable material so that it remains metallic when pressure is released.