Scientists with Harvard University and the University of Maryland have both published papers in the scientific journal Nature claiming the existence of never before discovered “time crystals” — structures that pulse without requiring any energy:
They are also the first examples of a remarkable type of matter — a collection of quantum particles that constantly changes, and never reaches a steady state. These systems draw stability from random interactions that would normally disrupt other kinds of matter. “This is a new kind of order, one that was previously thought impossible. That’s extremely exciting,” says Vedika Khemani, part of the Harvard team and previously part of the group that originally theorized the existence of the new kind of state.
The research proves “atoms are aligned in time in a way that’s analogous to the physical structure of diamonds or ice” according to The Seeker:
In normal crystals — such as gemstones, snowflakes or salt — constituent atoms or molecules are arranged into highly ordered, repeating lattice structures in physical space.
In time crystals, however, atoms take on a repeating pattern in time, instead of space.
Time crystals were developed by zapping atoms with lasers to make them pulsate together — in a way similar to making the head of a drum vibrate when it is struck, or tapping Jell-O with a spoon to make it jiggle, according to one of the researchers involved in the discovery, Christopher Monroe of the University of Maryland.
How are they created? One team levitated electromagnetically trapped atoms in a vacuum chamber and shot them with lasers, while the other sent lasers and microwaves through a black diamond.
While time crystals currently have no known real-world applications, they may be very useful one day for building even more sophisticated quantum computers like the ones financially backed by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and the Central Intelligence Agency’s investment arm In-Q-Tel.
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