BEACON TRANSCRIPT – The structure of crystals is made up of repeating patterns of atoms or molecules. Researchers at the Universities of Maryland and California discovered that these patterns can exist through time. They called this whole new type of matter “time crystals” and published a detailed description of them in the Physical Review Letter.
The researchers performed a few experiments to create the time crystals. They put together 10 atoms of ytterbium and hit them repeatedly with two lasers so that they would stay of equilibrium. The atoms organized themselves into a pattern, but they did not reach equilibrium. This suggests that these atoms remain in permanent motion, although they do not contain any energy.
Why is this so special? The entire field of physics is almost exclusively based on the study of matter that is at equilibrium, therefore the fact that these particles that do not reach equilibrium have been created shows how promising the future of physics is.
Norman Yao, professor at University of California, Berkeley, is the lead researcher of the study. He declared that time crystals were indeed the embodiment of a new stage of matter. Moreover, they were one of the first examples of non-equilibrium matter.
However, the idea of these crystals is not new. Frank Wilczek, who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 2004, was the first to propose that matter can appear to move even if they are in a ground state. A ground state implies that there is no energy and movement should be impossible in such conditions. He made this proposal in 2012.
To make the understanding of the time crystals easier, the researchers compared them to Jell-O. Everybody knows that Jell-O starts jiggling if you tap it. What is the difference here is the fact that the crystals jiggle without energy or a “tap” from outside. Also, as less energy as they contain, the time crystals never stop oscillating.
The scientists discovered the time crystals, but they have not found a practical applicability yet. More research is under way to find what they are useful for, but the scientists suspect that the crystals may be useful in the development of quantum computers.
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