Scientists create ultra-durable time crystal

Researchers at TU Dortmund University have achieved a groundbreaking feat by creating a remarkably resilient time crystal, surpassing previous experiments by millions of times. This achievement validates a captivating phenomenon theorized by Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek roughly a decade ago, a concept that has intrigued both scientists and science fiction enthusiasts alike.

Their findings, recently published in Nature Physics, shed light on the intricate nature of crystals, particularly those existing in the temporal dimension. Crystals, known for their orderly arrangement of atoms, boast captivating structures akin to gemstones, with smooth facets gleaming under light.

Frank Wilczek, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), proposed the concept of time crystals in 2012, suggesting that akin to spatial crystals, temporal crystals exhibit periodic changes in physical properties over time. This notion, blending space and time as often seen in physics, sparked debates and even inspired cinematic representations, such as in Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame (2019).

While initial attempts at demonstrating time crystals since 2017 showcased promising results, they fell short of Wilczek’s original vision, displaying periodic changes but with altered frequencies. It wasn’t until 2022, with the advent of a Bose-Einstein condensate, that scientists achieved a time crystal exhibiting true periodic behavior, albeit for mere milliseconds.

Now, a team led by Dr. Alex Greilich at TU Dortmund University has engineered a novel crystal composed of indium gallium arsenide, where nuclear spins serve as reservoirs for the time crystal. Continuous illumination prompts electron spins to interact, generating nuclear spin polarization that spontaneously triggers oscillations akin to a time crystal.

Remarkably, the crystal’s lifespan surpasses 40 minutes, a staggering 10 million-fold increase from prior experiments, with potential for even greater longevity. By systematically adjusting experimental conditions, researchers can manipulate the crystal’s period across wide ranges, although they risk breaching boundaries where periodicity dissolves, revealing intriguing chaotic behavior that persists over extended durations.

This milestone not only extends our understanding of time crystals but also provides a platform to analyze the chaotic dynamics of such systems using theoretical frameworks, marking a significant leap in our comprehension of temporal phenomena.

Source: TU Dortmund University

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