Physicists Have Created the First Manipulable Time Crystal

Published by Adrien - Wednesday, February 14, 2024 - Other Languages: FR, DE, ES, PT
Source: Nature Physics

The universe is a theater of fascinating phenomena, where matter and energy conform to laws that often surpass our imagination.

A significant breakthrough has been achieved by a team from the University of Dortmund, Germany. These researchers have created a time crystal with unprecedented durability, vastly outperforming the records of previous experiments. This discovery provides concrete evidence to a theory proposed a decade ago by Nobel laureate, Frank Wilczek, which has since captivated the public's imagination through cinema.

Crystals are known for their periodic arrangement of atoms in space, leading to their beauty and unique structure. Similarly, the concept of a time crystal introduces a temporal dimension to this periodicity. Wilczek suggested that a physical property could start to vary periodically over time without any external influence. Until recently, the existence of such time crystals was a subject of intense scientific debate.

The first manifestations of time crystals, observed from 2017, required periodic external excitation. In contrast, the time crystal created by the Dortmund team, led by Dr. Alex Greilich, operates differently. Using a crystal made of indium gallium arsenide, they discovered that the polarization of nuclear spins could spontaneously generate oscillations, thus realizing the idea of a time crystal with constant temporal excitation.

Their crystal has a lifespan of at least 40 minutes, ten million times longer than those of previously demonstrated time crystals. This longevity offers a new perspective on the states of matter and their behavior over extended periods.

The researchers also explored the possibility of altering the crystal's period by adjusting the experimental conditions. They discovered that certain modifications could cause the "melting" of the crystal, that is, the loss of its periodicity, thereby revealing chaotic behavior that can persist for a long time.

This study was published in Nature Physics.
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