Insulator-to-conducting transition in dense fluid helium

Phys Rev Lett. 2010 May 7;104(18):184503. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.104.184503. Epub 2010 May 5.


By combining diamond-anvil-cell and laser-driven shock wave techniques, we produced dense He samples up to 1.5 g/cm(3) at temperatures reaching 60 kK. Optical measurements of reflectivity and temperature show that electronic conduction in He at these conditions is temperature-activated (semiconducting). A fit to the data suggests that the mobility gap closes with increasing density, and that hot dense He becomes metallic above approximately 1.9 g/cm(3). These data provide a benchmark to test models that describe He ionization at conditions found in astrophysical objects, such as cold white dwarf atmospheres.