This concept of crystals of time was already proposed in the year 2012 by theoretical physicist and Nobel Frank Wilczek in 2004. These are hypothetical structures that have movement even at their lowest point of energy. But now, matter was first created in the laboratory, something a little different from the theoretical concept, but still very revolutionary.
In the eyes of science, a crystal is understood to be a material having a repeated atomic structure, that is, starting at an atom and looking in any direction, an identical pattern will always be seen. This often happens in nature, such as snow, diamonds, or even salt.
For the crystals of time, the concept is similar, however, rather than there being repetition in space, there is repetition in time. That is, their atoms never stop, being in a phase of “non-equilibrium”, describes Wired.
This realization, apart from being a huge discovery in the field of matter, may also be essential for quantum computation.
Soonwon Choi, a theoretical physicist at Harvard University and co-author of an article published in Nature, explains this “new phase of the story” saying “It is something that moves in time, while remaining stable”.
For Wilczek, in 2012, the hypothetical structures seemed to move even at their lowest point of energy, and in January of this year Norman Yao, a researcher at Berkeley, Californian University, wrote an article stating that something like that was Possible, but not in a “symmetrical” way as Wilczek had thought.
“It’s like jumping rope, but somehow our arm goes around twice, but the rope only gives one. It’s less strange than the initial idea, but it’s still very strange”, Yao said. In Frank Wilczek’s version, the rope would go around by itself.
It was two separate teams, from the University of Maryland and Harvard University, that picked up on the idea and then created two versions of a time crystal, which appear to be workable.
“This opens the door to a whole new world of non-equilibrium phases”, said Andrew Potter, a professor of physics at the University of Texas. “We took these theoretical ideas and we even managed to build something in the laboratory. We hope this is only the first example and that many more will come”, he added.
Potter and Yao further confirmed that the time crystal constructed by the University of Maryland had the predicted properties, the material is made of ions of the ytterbium element. Subsequently, by applying an electric field, the researchers were able to lift ten ions. Finally, reaching them with a laser, they made them turn. They hit us several times, at a steady pace, until finally a pattern was created in time.
At Harvard University, a second crystal of time was created one month later from a diamond. “It shows that the richness of the phases of matter is even more comprehensive,” said Norman Yao.
He added, “Realizing what kinds of matter exist in nature is a holy grail in physics. Non-equilibrium phases represent a new path, unlike anything we have studied in the past”.
According to Wired, one of the most promising applications for the crystals of time is quantum computing since it will allow the creation of more stable quantum computers.
Instability is one of the barriers to overthrowing quantum computing researchers.