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Science Says: Time Crystals Are the Brand New Phase of Matter

by Ane Krstevska

Science Says: Time Crystals Are the Brand New Phase of Matter

With all the speculations about time crystals from recently, maybe now it is the time to really scrutinize the information and facts.

A time crystal is actually a unique crystal that has an atomic structure which repeats in both space and time, and which also means that it is in a state of constant oscillation without energy.

According to some researchers, now there is a possibility to measure these crystals; two teams of scientists claim that they have already created time crystals in the laboratory. Their findings would also prove that a previously unknown phase of matter exists.

In short, metals, as well as insulators are in equilibrium, but it was long suspected that some other states could also exist in the Universe. According to the Norman Yao:

This is a new phase of matter, a period, but it is also really cool as it is also one of the primary examples of non-equilibrium matter. For the last half-century, we were exploring equilibrium matter, such as metals and insulators. Just now, we are starting to explore a whole new landscape of non-equilibrium matter.

As we already mentioned, the idea of time crystals was around for a while. In 2012, Frank Wilczek, who is a Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist, argued that time crystals are structures which have movement at their lowest energy state, known as a ground state.

This is also referred to as the zero-point energy of a system, and a lot of people believe that this state cannot exist as energy would have to somehow, be expended. However, Wilczek predicted that time crystals have a structure which actually repeats in both time and space, and which is going to keep them oscillating in the ground state. So, a time crystal is considered to be similar to infinitely oscillating jelly in the natural ground state, and this is the characteristic which actually makes it new, as well as non-equilibrium matter.

Now, Yao devised a blueprint to outline precisely how to make, as well as measure time crystals; he can also predict what different phases around the time crystals should be. Indeed, the solid, liquid, as well as have phases were all mapped. Yao also says that his paper in the journal Physical Review Letters is the bridge between the theoretical idea and the experimental implementation.

One of the teams that are involved in the studies from recently was from the University of Maryland, and the other one was from Harvard University; both the teams created time crystals, and virtually all of the details can be found at arXiv.org. What is more, the time crystals of the University of Maryland were created by way of a conga line of 10 ytterbium ions, with entangled electron spins.

The ions also needed to be kept out of equilibrium, so that the researchers targeted them with two different lasers. The first one generated a magnetic field, and the second one altered the spins of the atoms. As a result of the spins of the atoms becoming entangled, the atoms settle into a stable, as well as repetitive pattern of spin flipping. The system also has to break time symmetry to be a time crystal, and observing the ytterbium atom conga line is utilized to detect these oddities.

Yao asked:

Wouldn’t it be super weird if you jiggled the Jell-O and found that somehow it responded at a different period? However, that is actually the essence of the time crystal. You also have a periodic driver that has a period ‘T,’ but the system somehow synchronizes so that you can observe the system oscillating with a period that is larger than ‘T.’

Time crystals actually change phases under different magnetic fields and laser pulsing, which is similar to how an ice cube melts.

The Harvard time crystals are actually unique was it was set up utilizing densely packed nitrogen-vacancy centers in diamonds. Phil Richerme from the Indiana University said:

Such similar results are actually achieved in two widely disparate systems underscore that time crystals are a broad new phase of matter, and not simply a curiosity relegated to small or narrowly specific systems. Observation of the discrete time crystal also confirms that symmetry breaking can happen in essentially all natural realms, and clears the way to a few new avenues of research.

Ane Krstevska



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