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Scientists Confirm Existence of Time Crystals: Implications to Technology, Quantum Computing Explained

Jan 30, 2017 08:16 AM EST

Time crystals are strange hypothetical structures as they have an atomic structure that not just repeats itself in space, but also in time. This means they are in perpetual motion without using energy, and scientists have just confirmed their existence.

Researchers have reported in detail just how to make these crystals and confirmed they created the crystals based on the blueprint. The impact of such a discovery is unprecedented, especially since this allows scientists to explore new frontiers in quantum computing and other forms of technology.

According to Science Alert, Norman Yao, lead researcher from the University of California, Berkeley, said these time crystals are the first confirmed example of a non-equilibrium matter.

Before time crystals, all objects in physics (i.e., metals and insulators) are "in equilibrium," meaning they do not move because all forces act equally on them. This is the first time an object does not need such a force in order to move.

Time crystals were first predicted by Nobel-winning physicist Frank Wilczek back in 2012. Time crystals are structures that appear to have movement at their lowest energy state, known as the grounded state.

Wilczek proposed a new look on these crystals, as ground states normally refer to zero-point energy, or no movement is possible due to lack of energy. He said normal crystals have atomic structures that repeat in space, but they're motionless because they're in equilibrium in their ground state. However, time crystals also repeat in time -- like jelly that repeatedly jiggles without consuming energy.

Yao and his team have come up with a detailed blueprint how to make and measure the properties of these time crystals and even predict what the various properties of the crystals are, meaning they mapped out the equivalent properties of the solid, liquid and gas phases of the new matter.

In their paper, the researchers said this bridges the idea between theoretical ideas and experiments. In fact, two independent teams have successfully created time crystals based on the blueprints. They are at the pre-print site from the University of Maryland and from Harvard. 

They are created by taking a conga line of 10 ytterbium ions with entangled electron spins. The researchers alternately hit them with two lasers -- one of which creates a magnetic field while the other partially flipping spins, creating a "crystal-esque" structure with repetitive spin patterns.  

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