Physicists have made groundbreaking advancements in developing quantum devices that seem straight out of science fiction. They have linked isolated groups of particles that behave like time crystals into a single, evolving system, which could have practical applications in quantum computing.
Time crystals, a phase of matter similar to regular crystals, were officially discovered and confirmed in 2016 but were once considered physically impossible. While the atoms in regular crystals are arranged in a fixed, three-dimensional grid structure, in time crystals, they exhibit patterns of movement in time that external forces cannot easily explain. These oscillations, called ‘ticking’, are locked to a regular frequency and theoretically tick at their lowest possible energy state, making them stable and coherent over long periods.
In the study published in ‘Nature Communications’, researchers have used time crystals made up of quasiparticles called magnons, which consist of collective excitation of the spin of electrons. They were formed from helium-3, a stable isotope of helium, when it was cooled to within one ten-thousandth of a degree of absolute zero. This created a B-phase superfluid, a low-pressure zero-viscosity fluid, in which time crystals formed as spatially distinct Bose-Einstein condensates, each consisting of a trillion magnon quasiparticles.
According to the study, when the two-time crystals were allowed to touch each other, they exchanged magnons, which influenced the oscillation of each time crystal, creating a single system with the option of functioning in two discrete states. This is significant because objects with more than one state in quantum physics exist in a mix of those states before a clear measurement pins them down. A time crystal operating in a two-state system provides rich new opportunities for quantum-based technologies.
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