Using quantum Monte Carlo (QMC) calculations, we investigate the insulator-metal transition observed in liquid hydrogen at high pressure. Below the critical temperature of the transition from the molecular to the atomic liquid, the fundamental electronic gap closure occurs abruptly, with a small discontinuity reflecting the weak first-order transition in the thermodynamic equation of state. Above the critical temperature, molecular dissociation sets in while the gap is still open. When the gap closes, the decay of the off-diagonal reduced density matrix shows that the liquid enters a gapless, but localized, phase: there is a crossover between the insulating and the metallic liquids. Compared to different density functional theory (DFT) functionals, our QMC calculations provide larger values for the fundamental gap and the electronic density of states close to the band edges, indicating that optical properties from DFT potentially benefit from error cancellations.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
- Condensed Matter Physics