Everything around you is made of elements that scientists have studied in quite some detail over the last 200 years. But all that understanding breaks down when these elements are subjected to high pressure and temperature. Now, using an advanced theoretical understanding and extreme conditions, researchers have converted table salt into exotic chemicals.
Salt is made from one part sodium (Na) and one part chlorine (Cl). If somehow salt were transported to the center of the Earth, where the pressure is three million times that on the surface, its crystalline structure would change but the ratio of those two elements would remain the same.
Vitali Prakapenka at the University of Chicago and his colleagues wanted to find out what would happen if there were an excess of either sodium or chlorine at such high pressures. Would the ratio between the elements change? “It might,” said Prakapenka, “because chemistry completely changes in such conditions.” If it did, the result would not just be formation of a new compound, but a serious revision of what we think about chemistry.