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If you can’t turn water into gold like a good alchemist would, the next best thing might be to transform water itself into a shiny, metallic material. Researchers have achieved that feat by forming a thin layer of water around electron-sharing alkali metals.

The water stayed in a metallic state for a only few seconds, but the experiment did not require the high pressures that are normally needed to turn non-metallic materials into electrically conductive metals.

Co-author Pavel Jungwirth, a physical chemist at the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague, says that seeing the water take on a golden shine was a highlight of his career. The team published its findings on 28 July in Nature1.

“This is a most important advance,” says Peter Edwards, a chemist at the University of Oxford, UK. “Who would have thought it … bronze, metallic water?”

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