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The crystals of time are “impossible”, but they respect quantum physics

Abstract time crystal concept

In a new experiment, scientists created two temporal crystals inside the superfluid and touched them.

It has long been thought that time crystals are impossible, because their perpetual motion would seem to defy the laws of physics. However, using quantum physics Not only have scientists created time crystals, but they have also shown now that they have the potential to power useful devices in the future.

Scientists have created the first two-crystal “time crystal” system in an experiment that seems to bend the laws of physics.

It comes after the same team recently witnessed the first interaction of the new phase of the subject.

Time crystals have long been thought to be impossible because they are made of atoms in endless motion. The discovery, published today (June 2, 2022) in the journal Communication of natureshows that not only can time crystals be created, but they have the potential to be transformed into useful devices.

Time crystals are different from a standard crystal - such as metals or rocks - which is composed of atoms arranged in a pattern that repeats itself regularly in space.

First theorized in 2012 by Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek and identified in 2016, time crystals have the bizarre property of being in constant motion, repeating themselves over time, despite the fact that there is no external input. Their atoms are constantly oscillating, rotating or moving first in one direction and then in the other.

Time Crystals rotary refrigerator

The researchers cooled the superfluid helium-3 to near absolute zero (minus 273.15 ° C) inside this rotating refrigerator, where two time crystals were created and brought into contact. Credit: © Aalto University / Mikko Raskinen

EPSRC Fellow Dr. Samuli Autti, senior author in the Department of Physics at Lancaster University, explained: “Everyone knows that machines with perpetual motion are impossible. However, in quantum physics, perpetual motion is fine as long as we keep our eyes closed. By sneaking through this crack, we can make time crystals. ”

“It simply came to our notice then. And we already know that it exists at room temperature. ”

A “two-tier system” is a basic block of a quantum computer. Time crystals could be used to build quantum devices that operate at room temperature.

An international team of researchers from Lancaster University, Royal Holloway London, Landau Institute and Aalto University in Helsinki observed the crystals of time using Helium-3, a rare helium isotope that lacks a neutron. The experiment was performed at Aalto University.

They cooled the helium-3 superfluid to about ten thousandths of a degree[{” attribute=””>absolute zero (0.0001K or -273.15°C). The researchers created two time crystals inside the superfluid, and brought them to touch. The scientists then watched the two time crystals interacting as described by quantum physics.

Reference: “Nonlinear two-level dynamics of quantum time crystals” 2 June 2022, Nature Communications.
DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-30783-w

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