What the Heck are Time Crystals?

Updated: Feb 12

By: Jean Claude T. Isidor



Introduction

First and foremost, no, time crystals are not one of the infinity stones on Thanos’s gauntlet. Instead, time crystals are one of the most complexing yet remarkable discoveries in this century. But what exactly are time crystals?


Background

Before discussing the perplexing properties of time crystals, it's crucial that you understand what a crystal really is. Crystals are solids that have a repetitive arrangement of atoms, forming a crystal lattice, similar

to how in every school dance the athletes are with the cheerleaders. These crystals are categorized by their shape in addition to a crystal’s chemical properties being determined by the arrangement of an

atom’s electron. Now let's get on to answering the question of what is a time crystal.


Time Crystals Overview

Time crystals surprisingly are not crystals but a new state of matter that has a unique property that has left many physicists scratching their heads, their ability of being in a constant repetitive motion in time regardless of whether it's given energy. This was theorized in 2012 by the physicist Frank Wilczek and has since undergone immense experiments. Now, the reason for this strange property of repeating in time is due to their atoms undergoing a constant oscillation in what moves first in one direction and then goes the opposite direction even at its lowest state, crazy right. In order to really understand time crystals, researchers from Yale University underwent an experiment in which they try to make time crystals by

shooting lasers at atoms, which after some time began to move even though the laser, which supplied it energy, stopped. This indicated that the repetitiveness of time crystals are the result of it breaking the

symmetry of time and becoming the perplexing state of matter this article is about. Coming back into the point, the act of repeating in time seems to go against several distinguished laws in physics yet it still is able to exist in our physical world. I know what you're thinking, How is this relevant to my life? Well, time crystals can serve as the basis for newer technology that can be developed in the future.


Applications of Time Crystals

Due to time crystals ability to repeat in time, they can have a tremendous impact on the field of atomic clocks in addition to gyroscopes, GPS, etc. In addition to this, its repetitive nature can serve as the method in which information in a quantum computer can be stored. Hopefully in the future you will come to appreciate time crystals as you use GPS to navigate to a location or simply not have to deal with daylight saving time.


Ending

All in all, time crystals are a remarkable form of matter in physics whose implications to technology seems far from endless. These crystals allow physicists to continue the journey of understanding the universe, even when it doesn't play by the rules.


References


1. Autti, S., Heikkinen, P., Mäkinen, J., Volovik, G., Zavjalov, V., & Eltsov, V. (2020, August

17). AC Josephson effect between two superfluid time crystals. Retrieved September 28,

2020, from https://www.nature.com/articles/s41563-020-0780-y


2. Crew, B. (2016, October 7). Physicists Just Created The World’s First Time Crystal.


ScienceAlert. https://www.sciencealert.com/physicists-just-created-the-world-s-first-time-

crystal


3. Zhang, J. (2016, September 27). Observation of a Discrete Time Crystal. ArXiv.Org.

https://arxiv.org/abs/1609.08684