AUG 28, 2020 8:04 AM PDT

Interacting Time Crystals and the Future of Time Keeping

WRITTEN BY: Daniel Duan

(Pixabay/Schak)

Time crystals, also known as the space-time crystals, is a newly discovered state of matter that demonstrates distinct spatial patterns and configuration periodicity.

A group of Finnish, British, and U.S. researchers recently reported that for the first time in history, they witnessed the "message sharing" between two time crystals. This finding may have widespread implications in quantum information processing. 

Normal crystals, such as salts, metals, and minerals, have spatially repeating patterns. Time crystals also have specific patterns, except that theirs alternate from moment to moment, and with no energy input.

Nobel laureate and theoretic physicist Frank Wilczek was the first to contemplate the idea of a time crystal. The hypothesis stirred great debates within the physics community, and over time the concept got further developed and was given more precise definition. In 2017,  different experimental approaches were taken by two separate groups, and both led to the creation of time crystals, but of different nature.

Time Crystals! | Space Time Journal Club (PBS Space Time)

The international group behind the current study conducted their experiment at Aalto University in Espoo, Finnland. They generated their version of time crystals by freezing a rare isotope of helium, He-3, to almost absolute zero. Under the room temperature and atmosphoric temeperature, He-3 is a gaseous substance; but under a deep freeze of 0.0001K, the atoms were turned into a superfluid.

Unlike He-4 (the most prevalent form of helium), its double protons and neutrons cousin, He-3 has one fewer neutron, which gives it an overall spin of -1/2 and drastically "weird" quantum mechanical effects.

In their experiment, the two crystals were seen interacting and exchanging "information" in the form of quantized spin-wave. In a laymen's perspective, the wave can be regarded as an excitation of the electrons' spin structure as a group in a crystal lattice. This interaction led to a phenomenon known as the Josephson effect, where a "super" current that flows indefinitely long without any voltage applied within the crystal. 

The researchers hope that their breakthrough discovery can be applied to improve the current atomic clock, a technology that keeps the most precise and accurate account of time, as well as other devices that rely on precise timing mechanisms such as GPS.

Dr. Samuli Autti, the lead author from U.K.'s Lancaster University, commented on the significance behind this study in an interview: "Controlling the interaction of two time crystals is a major achievement. Before this, nobody had observed two time crystals in the same system, let alone seen them interact."

This study is published in the journal Nature Materials.

Source: Phys.org

About the Author
  • Graduated with a bachelor degree in Pharmaceutical Science and a master degree in neuropharmacology, Daniel is a radiopharmaceutical and radiobiology expert based in Ottawa, Canada. With years of experience in biomedical R&D, Daniel is very into writing. He is constantly fascinated by what's happening in the world of science. He hopes to capture the public's interest and promote scientific literacy with his trending news articles. The recurring topics in his Chemistry & Physics trending news section include alternative energy, material science, theoretical physics, medical imaging, and green chemistry.
You May Also Like
OCT 26, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Fighting mesothelioma with gold nanotubes
OCT 26, 2020
Fighting mesothelioma with gold nanotubes
New research published in the journal Small details how gold nanotubes could be used to treat mesothelioma cancer. ...
NOV 02, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Never-Found-Before Molecule Detected in Titan's Atmosphere
NOV 02, 2020
Never-Found-Before Molecule Detected in Titan's Atmosphere
Astronomers have detected Cyclopropenylidene (C3H2) on Titan, one of Saturn's 53 confirmed moons. While the molecule ...
NOV 02, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Eliminating CO2 at room temperature
NOV 02, 2020
Eliminating CO2 at room temperature
A new chemical process developed by researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) demonstrate ...
NOV 18, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
"CASH" system optimizes materials development with machine learning
NOV 18, 2020
"CASH" system optimizes materials development with machine learning
New research published in APL Material from scientists at the Tokyo Institute of Technology reports on the development o ...
DEC 08, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Using neural networks to predict epilepsy
DEC 08, 2020
Using neural networks to predict epilepsy
New research published in EPJ B highlights how neural networks can be used in order to predict the occurrence of an ...
JAN 21, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
Making the making of ammonia "green"
JAN 21, 2021
Making the making of ammonia "green"
For decades, economists and chemists alike have been dreaming of a hydrogen economy, where hydrogen fuels our global pow ...
Loading Comments...