Scientists Discovered Time Crystals: Latest form of Matter


In an interesting scientific development, two groups of scientists have discovered a new phase of matter called time crystals. Scientists from Harvard University and the University of Maryland have invented the first-ever time crystals. This newest form of matter will have its applications in quantum computers.

Time crystals have an atomic structure that repeats in time on periodic basis like tapping Jell-O to jiggle. The time crystals are similar to the liquid or gaseous state of ice. According to Yao (scientist) of UC Berkeley group, “time crystals are a new phase of matter, period and first example of non-equilibrium matter”. In fact, time crystals have conga line of 10 ytterbium ions whose electrons interact in a similar way how qubit systems work inside quantum computers.

The idea of time crystals was first conceived by Nobel Laureate Frank Wilczek in the year 2012. This subject then again got the limelight last year when physicists at Princeton University, the US proved that such crystal can be easily made. In fact, the nano atoms within the time crystals oscillate sans energy making it one of the isolated cases of non-equilibrium matter.

When it comes to normal crystals like diamonds, these have an atomic lattice or array of atoms attached to it – that repeats in space. Time crystals have added a new dimension to the study of matter. For the last few decades together scientists have been zeroing in on equilibrium matters like insulators and metals, but with the discovery of time crystals – this trend is set to change. Now, scientists will also give enough attention to non-equilibrium matters as well.


This phase diagram shows how changing the experimental parameters can ‘melt’ a time crystal into a normal insulator or heat up a time crystal to a high temperature thermal state. (Graphic Source: Norman Yao)

How does Time Crystal Functions?

Scientists claimed that time crystals break time symmetry. The magnetic field created by the crystals drive ytterbium atoms producing a typical repetition in it which otherwise won’t happen.

“You have some periodic driver that has a period ‘T’, but the system somehow synchronizes so that you observe the system oscillating with a period that is larger than ‘T’”, a scientist studying time crystals explained. This research on Time Crystals was well supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the concerned varsities.

Time crystals resemble jelly. It jiggles on tapping but otherwise remains motionless and without energy for most of the time. It is definitely a non-equilibrium matter. This prompted Yao and his team to come out with a detailed blueprint and hypothesis that accelerated massive research oin this field by other scientists as well. Yao’s blueprint was first published in Physical Review Letters.

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