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Time Crystals Created, Suspending Laws of Physics

Scientists have recently succeeded in creating a mysterious state of matter known as a time crystal. This exotic state of matter seems to indefinitely suspend the laws of thermodynamics.

The time crystal is essentially a collection of atoms or ions that are far apart but still interacting with each other. This form of matter keeps "ticking" indefinitely at a certain frequency, without heating up or creating entropy, the natural state of disorder that always increases in the universe. Time crystals works as a result of quantum effects, bizarre rules describing the menagerie of tiny sub-atomic particles.

The newly created matter connects with a host of other exotic states of matter, such as superconductors, quantum-spin liquids and superfluids.
"A new phase of matter have been found,"and "It's something moving in time while still stable." [The 18 Biggest Unsolved Mysteries in Physics].
While the newfound state of matter is fascinating in itself, it could also pave the way for quantum computers that don't lose information.

Time crystal

In the study, a suggested form of matter spontaneously breaks "time invariance," a fundamental symmetry in time. The idea of time invariance dictates that doing something now would produce the same result as doing the same thing, for instance, 1 minute in the future (all other conditions being equal).

Therefore, the quantum interactions among particles, such as ions or sub-atomic particles, could create a state of matter that oscillates repeatedly in time, just as a crystal has a structure that repeats in space. These implies that if the matter oscillates with a period of 2 minutes, doing something with that matter now would produce different results than doing the same thing 1 minute from now. [Photos: Exotic Time Crystals Created in the Lab].

To understand what this means, imagine two people holding a jump rope and swinging it for a third person doing the jumping. In ordinary states of matter, if the rope makes a circle every second, the person must jump every second. But in a time crystal, it is as if the jumper lifts his or her feet every other time the rope hits the ground, and yet somehow keeps time and does not get entangled in the rope.

More recently,idea showed that time crystals could not exist in thermal equilibrium. (A fundamental principle of thermodynamics is that two objects in contact will eventually wind up at the same temperature at the steady state, or thermal equilibrium, of the system.) But soon after, researchers showed that time crystals could exist in dynamic states, when systems are changing quickly and haven't yet reached thermal equilibrium.

Earlier this year, a physicist at the University of Texas at Austin, and colleagues, developed a theoretical paper that identified key signatures of a time crystal. That paper predicted what would happen when such a crystal melts into a humdrum state of matter, and laid out experimentally ways to prove the existence of time crystals. Independently, Choi and colleagues developed their own idea for a method of demonstrating the existence of time crystals, and then set out to create such a crystal in the lab.

Suspending thermodynamics

in reaches today, the researchers showed that time crystals can exist in very different systems.

Here, the setup for creating a time crystal using a diamond filled with nitrogen vacancy defects. These defects act like tiny spins that can be manipulated with laser light to create a time crystal.

Choi and his colleagues based at Harvard University experimented a diamond filled with 1 million nitrogen vacancy color centers; these are spots in the diamond's carbon crystal lattice where nitrogen atoms have taken the place of the carbon atoms. Because nitrogen is smaller than carbon, this replacement leaves an empty space in the lattice, now the nitrogen and the empty space can act together as if they are tiny particles with spins. (The vacancies are called color centers because the nitrogen atoms produce color in the diamonds ; in this instance, the diamonds are so full of these defects that they appear black.).

Using lasers and microwave radiation, at this juncture, the nitrogen vacancies was periodically pulsed, which then oscillated with a frequency that was half of the frequency of the radiation aimed at them which is called "driving frequency".

in the second experiment, 14 ions of ytterbium was trapped using laser beams and then the ions were manipulated using spins that are tightly focused to the laser beams. Again, the material acted like a time crystal, oscillating at half the driving frequency. For the period of the experiment, the material did not heat up, despite lots of energy pumped into the system. That's a sign that the laws of thermodynamics didn't come into play during the time of the experiment. For instance, the used system may not be a perfect time crystal, The system didn't heat up much, but it did slowly generate heat.

But the new findings shows that the time crystal does not need to be perfectly isolated from heat and entropy to exhibit its repeating-in-time properties. This means it may be surprisingly easy to generate these exotic states of matter.

The truly fascinating thing about these experiments is that they have the potential to suspend the laws of physics indefinitely. just like a cup of hot coffee that never reaches room temperature, "extra energy just stays in place and the system never equilibrates to one temperature".

However, it's important to note that these time crystals didn't "break" the fundamental laws of thermodynamics per se; but they just put them off as long as the experiment is running.

By keeping the system in a dynamic state, then, the new experiments simply hold the matter in a regime in which thermodynamics ordinarily wouldn't apply.

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Content by: Henry Okere

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