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First Two-body ”time-crystal” Seems To Bend The Laws Of Physics

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Researchers have developed the first “time-crystal” two-body system in an experiment that appears to defy physics laws.

It follows the discovery by the same team of the first interaction of the new phase of matter.

As they are made up of atoms in constant motion, time crystals were thought to be impossible for a long time. The discovery, which was published in Nature Communications, demonstrates that time crystals can not only be made but also that they have the potential to be transformed into useful devices.

A time crystal differs from a conventional crystal, which is made up of atoms arranged in a regularly repeating pattern in space and is found in metals or rocks.

Time crystals, first proposed by Nobel Laureate Frank Wilczek in 2012 and discovered in 2016, have the strange attribute of being in constant, repeating motion in time despite no external input. Their atoms are constantly oscillating, whirling, or traveling in one way before moving in the opposite direction.

“Everybody knows that perpetual motion machines are impossible,” said EPSRC Fellow Dr Samuli Autti, main author from Lancaster University’s Department of Physics. However, in quantum physics perpetual motion is okay as long as we keep our eyes closed. By sneaking through this crack we can make time crystals.”

“It turns out putting two of them together works beautifully, even if time crystals should not exist in the first place. And we already know they also exist at room temperature .”

A quantum computer’s essential building element is a “two-level system.” Time crystals could be employed to develop room-temperature quantum electronics.

Researchers from Lancaster University, Royal Holloway University of London, Landau Institute, and Aalto University in Helsinki used Helium-3, a rare isotope of helium with one missing neutron, to examine time crystals. The experiment was carried out at the University of Aalto in Finland.

They cooled superfluid helium-3 to a temperature of 0.0001K (-273.15°C), which is one-tenth of a degree below absolute zero. Inside the superfluid, the researchers generated two-time crystals and brought them together. The scientists then observed the two-time crystals interacting as quantum theory predicted.

Image Credit: Getty

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