Physicists have created a new form of matter in which atoms follow a repeating pattern not in space, but in time.
Dubbed ‘time crystals,’ these materials once thought to be impossible have now been successfully created in two separate studies, both of which were published this week in a peer-reviewed journal.
Physicists say these crystals ‘open the door to a whole new world of nonequilibrium phases,’ and could one day make for ultra-secure quantum computers.
While the atoms that make up crystals such as ice or diamond are arranged in a repeating pattern through space, the pattern behind time crystals repeats in time.
These strange crystals are made up of interacting atoms that never ‘settle down’ to thermal equilibrium.
Their structure repeats in time as they are ‘kicked’ periodically, similar to the way Jell-O jiggles when it is tapped.
‘Wouldn’t it be super weird if you jiggled the Jell-O and found that somehow it responded at a different period?’ said Berkeley physicist Norman Yao.
‘But that is the essence of the time crystal.