Time Crystals-The Precision Time Keeper Could Be The Game Changer

Lalit Koundaal

Time Crystal was first developed by Nobel-prize winner Physicist Frank Wilczek back in 2012, as hypothetical structures that appear to have movement even at their lowest energy levels.

Wilczek had proposed that it could be possible to construct a Time Crystal using a low-temperature superconductor because crystals naturally align themselves at low temperatures.

What exactly are the time crystals-are they the bling inside your time turner or heart of the tardis?

Let’s convert the techno-babble into simple English!

Way back in History –

Time Crystal’s ability violates a fundamental symmetry in physics called time-translations symmetry and physicists have demonstrated that time crystals do exist.

In 2012, Wilczek and his team of theoretical physics at MIT had suggested that it could be possible to add the 4th dimension – the movement of time- to a crystal so that it acts as a kind of perpetual “time-keeper”, or clock.

Starting from Norman Yao et al’s publication entitled “Discrete-Time Crystals: rigidity, criticality, and realizations to Haruki Watanabe of UC Barkeley and Masaki Oshikawa of the University of Tokyo who showed some technical arguments that the time translational symmetry can’t be broken by a quantum system in equilibrium, which was not a piece of great news for time crystals. 

Then came the new paper of Yao et al, their answer was to throw away the equilibrium thing. He suggested a type of matter that exhibits a sort of fundamental oscillation over time, which means that some property of material goes through a repeating cycle.

The analogy for Time Crystals

The analogy is that the regular crystals have a periodic cycle through space molecular patterns which repeat again and again along their lattices. Time crystals repeat some internal state with constant separation in time. The name Time Crystal is somewhere out there.

It is also believed that Frank Wilczek was not the first to use this in reference to a regularly repeating system. That may have been Arthur Winfree in his “The Geometry Of Biological Time” where it was used to describe a periodic biological system.

But Wilczek was clever to apply it there because the name made the internet go completely crazy.

Wilczek came with a simple model in which charged particles with superconducting rings break what we call continuous time translation symmetry.

The New Thing 

A paper proposing merging time crystals with topological semiconductors for applications in error-free quantum computing, that is, extremely precise timekeeping and many more applications surfaced.

What is the field of topology? Well, this field primarily looks at the properties of objects that are invariant despite deformations like stretching, twisting, or bending.

To prove that the time crystals might be possible, research was set up at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Two teams of scientists followed the blueprint and made the Time Crystals. The first was out of the University of Maryland in College Park led by Chris Monroe. The other was at Harvard University, led by Mikhail Lukin.

The researchers of Maryland took 10 Ytterbium ions whose electrons spin were entangled and used in laser to create a magnetic field around them. The second laser was used to push their atoms.

The Harvard researchers conducted a similar experiment by using centres of diamonds containing flaws known as nitrogen-vacancy centres. These molecules were hit with microwaves and they reacted in the same way.

The two separate systems showing the same results prove that this type of matter is indeed present. It also illustrates that breaks in symmetry can occur not only in space but in time.

Conclusion –

The time crystals according to Wilczek, would have been born early on in the universe’s existence during its cooling phase.

Studying these crystals might offer clues to the origin of the universe and how it evolved. Wilczek said in one of the talks that discovering Time Crystal would be like discovering “a new continent, new world, or Antarctica, time will tell.”

“Whereas normal crystals can be asymmetrical in space, time crystals are asymmetric in time”







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