Featured image: The Harvard team’s time crystal (Image: Soonwon Choi)
Time crystals are a strange form of matter and remained until recently as a highly speculative subject. These crystals have an atomic structure that not only repeats itself in space but also in time, in a constant oscillation without energy. Time crystals are one of the coolest things physics has dished up in recent months because they point to a whole new world of ‘non-equilibrium’ phases that are entirely different from anything scientists have studied in the past.
Physicists say these crystals ‘open the door to a whole new world of nonequilibrium phases,’ and could one day make for ultra-secure quantum computers.
Access to the best technology in our era allows science to investigate predictions that challenge everything we thought we knew about the universe.
For this reason, physics never ceases to amaze us.
What began as a mere theory in 2012 was demonstrated 5 yeas later as scientists have finally confirmed the existence of time crystals, a new state of matter.
Time Crystals—a name that sounds almost as if it came out of a science fiction movie from Hollywood, was first proposed by Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist Frank Wilczek back in 2012. Time crystals were considered hypothetical structures that appear to have movement even at their lowest energy state, known as a ground state. Now scientists have proven their existence.
Time crystals are a strange form of matter and remained until recently as a highly speculative subject. These crystals have an atomic structure that not only repeats itself in space but also in time, in a constant oscillation without energy.
To many people, time crystals may sound like one of those purely abstract imaginary things. However recently, researchers have managed to measure the strange crystals and two different teams have independently reported having created ‘Time Crystals’ in the laboratory.
In an article published in the journal Physical Review Letters, Norman Yao, assistant professor at the University of Berkeley (California) describes how to create and measure the properties of a time crystal. Yao even predicts the various phases surrounding the crystal: something similar to liquid and gaseous states of ice.
The study is not mere speculation: it offers evidence. Two groups of scientists, one from the University of Maryland and another from Harvard, followed the model of Yao and have already created the first Time Crystal.
These crystals are repeated in time because they are ‘kicked’ periodically. It’s a bit like hitting gelatin repeatedly to make it move, explains Yao.
Most importantly, it’s not that these crystals repeat themselves in time, but they are the first of a great class of new materials that are intrinsically out of balance, unable to reach a condition of immobile equilibrium , Such as a diamond or that of a ruby.
Image: Soonwon Choi
“We’ve taken these theoretical ideas that we’ve been poking around for the last couple of years and actually built it in the laboratory,” says one of the researchers, Andrew Potter from Texas University at Austin.
“Hopefully, this is just the first example of these, with many more to come.”
As explained by Science Alert, time crystals are one of the coolest things physics has dished up in recent months, because they point to a whole new world of ‘non-equilibrium’ phases that are entirely different from anything scientists have studied in the past.
“It shows that the richness of the phases of matter is even broader [than we thought],” physicist Norman Yao from the University of California, Berkeley, who published the blueprint in January, told Gizmodo.
“One of the holy grails in physics is understanding what types of matter can exist in nature. [N]on-equilibrium phases represent a new avenue different from all the things we’ve studied in the past.”