Can black holes make exotic materials?

Could black holes be a factory for unusual material at their hearts?

Black holes cannot make exotic elements in their extreme environments.

Black holes cannot make exotic elements in their extreme environments.

Asked by Paul Smith

No, exotic materials cannot be made in the extreme environment of a black hole. If we take an example of where elements are made, however – like our Sun – which churns out plenty of helium, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, you’ll find that a couple of extremely important conditions are required to “manufacture” them: high temperatures and high pressure.

Our Sun’s core is a blisteringly hot 15.7 million degrees Celsius but in comparison, black holes that are roughly the mass of our Sun are so cool that they only reach temperatures of around one ten-millionth of a degree above absolute zero. Even heavier than that and the black hole is even colder. Not even the spiralling discs of gas that can be found around supermassive black holes – which rest at the centre of galaxies – can get as hot as the core of the Sun. So we’ve got problems before we even start.

Coupled with this, we aren’t really fully aware of the physics inside a black hole, especially past the event horizon – the point of no return. What we do know though is that the pressures are so great, that any exotic materials or atoms that tried to form would be crushed to within an inch of their existance and ripped apart by gravitational forces as they tumble towards the centre of the black hole.

So, considering these two factors, it’s not possible to find any materials – or even your standard elements for that matter – in a black hole. These exotic objects are where matter breaks down and matter is what is required for fusion to happen.

Image Credit: ESA/NASA and Felix Mirabel (the French Atomic Energy Commission & the Institute for Astronomy and Space Physics/Conicet of Argentina)

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